How has BlackBerry's first Android offering held up this past year?
With the BlackBerry Priv closing in on its first birthday, now is a perfect time to take another look at the phone and see how it has held up over the year, and whether or not it is still a phone worth considering. This was BlackBerry's first device to run Android, and it has the company's iconic physical keyboard under its well-known slider. At first, many loved the idea of having the keyboard again, but is that enough to tie you to a phone for more than a year?
BlackBerry has been great about pushing monthly security patches the same day as Google, and in comparison the company did a pretty great job of getting Marshmallow pushed out timely. For all the things that BlackBerry has done great with this phone, there are a number of things that could have been done better, and those are more obvious after a year.
Let's take another look at the BlackBerry Priv and see if it is worth buying one today.
BlackBerry Priv Hardware
From the beginning, the BlackBerry Priv's hardware was divisive. The slider design with the physical QWERTY keyboard was appealing to some people, while others thought that it was a waste and unnecessary. It has a 5.4-inch display with a resolution of 2560x1440, which is still great even compared to the latest flagships.
Inside, you've got a Snapdragon 808 paired with 3GB of RAM, which still offers great performance for most daily tasks. From streaming media to browsing the web, and even some casual gaming, the Priv holds up well with very little lag.
With the Priv being a slider, the build quality has always felt a bit off to me, and the phone doesn't feel as high quality as it should. When tapping on the screen with it slid down you'll notice some bounce, and when it is extended up touching the top of it throws off the balance of the phone in your hand.
Luckily, the sliding mechanism has held up well.
The back is non-removable, like the battery, but it is made from a plastic piece with a carbon fiber-like design on it. Several times over the past year I've noticed times where the sides of the back piece didn't feel secure giving the back some bounce during use.
Luckily, the sliding mechanism has held up well, and I've yet to experience an issue with opening or closing the phone. The keyboard is something that I want to use more than I actually do, but sliding the phone open to use it gets a bit annoying at times. If you've used a BlackBerry keyboard in the past, you'll feel right at home, and the new swipe gestures that made their way over from the Passport are great if you remember to use them.
The hardware is definitely unique, and that means that some will love it and others will hate it.
BlackBerry Priv Software
The software on the Priv has made great strides over the past year. With the OS version jumping up to Marshmallow from Lollipop, the monthly security updates being available the same day Google announces them and the various updates to its own set of core apps, BlackBerry has made it far more enjoyable to use this phone. Recently, the company announced that it would transition to focus mainly on software, and in the past few months it has shown the value of that decision — even if it means doing away with in-house designs like the Priv in the future.
First up, the BlackBerry Hub. Having one central place for your notifications is awesome, and makes finding things much easier, but when the Priv was first announced, it was slow and didn't support all the apps it should. Over the past year, BlackBerry has made it significantly faster and has added support for apps like Slack, Facebook Messenger, and more.
Other apps, like the BlackBerry Launcher, BlackBerry Keyboard, and the BlackBerry Camera, have also seen big improvements over the year. With features like touch and hold to lock focus, faster HDR merging, a quicker shutter response and more arriving for the Camera, it makes it more enjoyable to use, though the picture quality doesn't stand up to phones that have been released more recently. The BlackBerry Keyboard has become even more secure, gained the ability to use gestures like swipe to delete and much more.
As for major software updates, BlackBerry did a decent job of updating the phone from Lollipop to Marshmallow (on most carriers), but there is still no word as to when, or if, it will hit Nougat. BlackBerry has done a phenomenal job with its monthly security patches, making them available the same day that Google announces them. When it was first announced the Priv was said to be the most secure Android phone available, and BlackBerry has continued to back that message with the quick security patches and updates to its apps that make them more secure.
BlackBerry Priv Cameras
When it first came out, the Priv had what we considered to be a pretty great camera. Over the past year, a number of phones have been released with much-improved sensors, diminishing the Priv's somewhat. The quality hasn't got any worse over the past year, but as you can imagine it didn't get much better, either.
The rear-facing camera is still acceptable, but the front-facing is laughable.
The Camera app has received a bunch of updates this year that enabled a number of new features and functionality. You can now lock onto a particular part of the photo to focus on it, and the shutter speed has been improved. This allows you to get the shot that you may have missed before, and the faster HDR merging speeds up the whole experience from taking to processing the photo.
For most, the rear-facing camera is still acceptable, but the front-facing camera is somewhat laughable. If you are looking for a phone with a top notch camera, the BlackBerry Priv was likely never what you were considering, and that still holds true.
BlackBerry Priv Battery life
Regardless of the phone, the older it gets the worse the battery gets. These things are not meant to last forever, but the Priv has done a great job at standing pretty strong. The battery improved greatly when the phone moved from Lollipop to Marshmallow and has held up well since. On average, getting through a day without charging isn't overly difficult thanks to the 3,410mAh cell inside. Even being on cellular data all day, streaming some music, a few YouTube videos, various web browsing and social media usage, I get around 15 hours off the charger and have around 25-30% left at the end of the day.
As always, battery life depends on a number of things, like how many email accounts you have syncing, how much time the display is on, the strength of your cellular signal and more. Luckily, the Priv is Quick Charge 2.0-compatible, so you can plug in a Quick Charge 2.0 charger and get a huge battery bump in a short period of time. I've found that this is a far more feature to have in a phone than a proclaimed "all day battery life".
BB Priv Should you buy it today?
Overall, the Priv has held up relatively well over its first year. Unfortunately for BlackBerry, many of the other manufacturers that have released phones in the past year have offered better complete packages, minus the physical keyboard. Between better battery life, significantly improved cameras and more, the BlackBerry Priv was left behind somewhat quickly.
The biggest factor here would be price. We've seen the Priv drop to around $300 off-contract, and at that price, it is worth picking one up. With BlackBerry taking over the updates for unlocked AT&T units you'll be able to receive timely updates even if you aren't an AT&T customer. At this price, the Priv is still worth picking up if you can deal with its flaws. For younger kids, or someone who really wants a physical keyboard, this is a great phone for that price.
At closer to $600 it is really hard to recommend purchasing the Priv over other phones that are available. With the less-than-stellar cameras, the occasional lag and the less than ideal battery life, you can find another phone to spend the money on.
- Complete BlackBerry Priv review
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