REVIEW: FRESH BLACKBERRY, THE BLACKBERRY PRIV

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The hero of a year or three ago, BlackBerry, have found their market share dwindling and their brand rapidly disappearing. Mobile advances are relentless, with each iteration of devices from Apple Samsung and others rapidly driving the agenda.

Blackberry have finally succumbed and the old adage “if you can’t beat them join them “has never been more apt. Steven Ambrose takes the latest Berry, the Android based BlackBerry Priv, out on the road and is impressed.

The internet is a living breathing thing and the buzzwords keep changing. The simple fact is that very few gadgets, especially those that connect, stand alone. This is absolutely true of mobile. Gone are the days that one gadget rules. It’s all about the ecosystem. Android backed by the power of Google dominates with Apple iOS coming is second globally. Devices based on Android and the Apple ecosystem are dominant with even strong competitors such as Microsoft and BlackBerry slipping into obscurity.

BlackBerry successfully pivoted their focus few years back, realising they had missed the boat and aimed at enterprise and specific vertical markets that require their brand of rock solid device management and security. The consumer segment has been rapidly fading despite brave high quality devices based on their solid and secure operating system BBOS 10. The inevitable came sooner than many had predicted and the latest BlackBerry runs Android. BlackBerry faithful’s have all gasped in horror, but BlackBerry have realised that this is now inevitable as the lack of momentum, market share, and app developers, signed the death knell to its own OS ambitions.

The Priv is a significant and very good entry into the Android smart device market.

The hardware.

BlackBerry have aimed, and priced the Priv at the top end of devices, its competitors are the newly released Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, the Apple iPhone 6S plus and others.  BlackBerry have largely succeeded in matching these high end devices spec for spec. The Priv is a good looking solidly build device with one massive differentiator.

The Priv is a slider, something we lost many years ago. Slide the Priv screen up and a BlackBerry keyboard is revealed. The keyboard is the latest smartest version that Blackberry have produced and allows the keyboard faithful to type faster and more securely than any on screen keyboard. The Keyboard also double as a mouse pad and you can scroll through documents, mails, and webpages by sliding your fingers over the keys, just as you would a touch pad. Word prediction magic in three areas completes the cleverness.

The Priv also has a 5.4” curved screen with Quad HD resolution. This screen is simply one of the best out there with viewing in bright sunlight and even wearing polarised glasses possible. Colours are spot on and the sharpness is outstanding. Touch sensitivity is also excellent. The Priv also comes with a top end 18Mp camera on the rear and a really good 2Mp front “Selfie” Camera.

The battery is not removable but along with the optimised OS, I managed a full day of use without charging. There are numerous BlackBerry touches in the hardware that make this the best built and most attractive BlackBerry to date. The Priv feels solid sturdy and very high quality.

The Software.

This is where the magic begins. Android today has far too many flavours, with every manufacturer trying to differentiate with their own skin that runs on top of stock android. This often has some advantages, but in most cases creates usability issues that are hard to ignore. BlackBerry have stuck to an almost vanilla implementation of Android 5.1.1, with Android 6 coming soon. After set up it is apparent that Blackberry have worked a little magic in combining the best of BlackBerry 10 into Android without creating too much confusion or too many usability issues.

The Priv remains a BlackBerry in most aspects even though it runs Android. The Hub is there, the BlackBerry Keyboard is there, all the little touches that made BlackBerry the productivity powerhouse from meeting reminders to night mode are there. This feat was no simple task and was not simply adding a few apps to Android. BlackBerry have essentially reworked Android at the deepest level to ensure identical security to their own OS, along with a smoothness and solidness of operating that is lacking from almost all Android devices today.

Apps on the Priv crashed far less than most Androids I have ever used. The BlackBerry apps are all excellent implementations combining the Android interface and usability ques with functionality that any Blackberry user will immediately find familiar. The hub is still the best place on any device to find all your notifications and the BlackBerry keyboard, on screen and physically, is the best mobile keyboard out there. Simply put the BlackBerry Priv is a productivity demon.

Android allows all the apps in the app store to run on the Priv, so maps, all the social media apps, in fact everything is available and runs perfectly on the Priv. No longer is there any App envy from BlackBerry owners. The Priv is not perfect in this regard. The usability quirks of Android are still there, for example there is no way to lock the home and other screens and disappearing apps that are inadvertently deleted or removed is still a problem. The standard Android apps are still there and can be hidden but signing in with your google password does connect them.

The BlackBerry software also includes full BlackBerry enterprise support and BBM right from the get go, and any company will find this the perfect device for both company and home use, with absolute security between these two identities. A useful app called DTEK allows a simple scan of security issues mostly related to non-secure apps, something that Android is unfortunately prone to.

Conclusion

There are far too many features of the Priv to cover in this review. The BlackBerry Priv is a bold departure from BlackBerry from their past. The Priv is not perfect. The Hardware is one notch below the current best, though it is really hard to stay up front. In use the Priv is as fast as any and faster than most, with no lag, no stuttering and a smooth interface that is rock solid. There are some messy Android interface features with too many prompts, options, and choices, especially compared to iOS and BlackBerry’s own OS 10 for many users.

The good to great on the Priv are the simple solid and deep integration of key BlackBerry feature such as the hub and keyboard and some deep OS changes that make this a true BlackBerry. The Camera is in the league of other top end devices, the build quality is right up there, along with the quality of materials and the screen.

The Keyboard is unique and truly useful for road warriors and email junkies.

Overall the Priv is possibly the best Android device on the market. Competition is fierce at this level but the Priv simply competes. If security, office device management, compatibility, as well as cutting edge compatibility with the best mobile has to offer, is key, then the Priv is the only device that combines all of this in a pleasing, useful, and truly high quality way.

If one high end device with full enterprise management support is what you are looking for, then the BlackBerry Priv is that device.

The BlackBerry Priv is available from most operators on various packages.

For more information go to http://global.blackberry.com/en/home.html 


Steven Ambrose | Strategy Worx Consulting CC | http://www.strategyworx.co.za/ | steven@strategyworx.co.za |


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