Close to the top of the list of things a lot of people who talk about smartphones all day have was probably something about BlackBerry never making a good Android phone, and today that is being crossed of all around the world. The BlackBerry Priv is here, and it's got a lot of folks seriously questioning the need for a physical keyboard on their phone again after having given it up a while back. At the same time, it's encouraging current BlackBerry users to consider a world outside of BB10, which is cool for everyone.
If you're among those on the fence about adding a BlackBerry Priv to your arsenal, we've put together a short list of things you need to know in order to help that decision along.
The keyboard is BlackBerry-level amazing
If you've been an Android user for a while, or if you didn't start using smartphones until the release of the G1 or Nexus One, there's a good chance you don't know what it is like to type on a BlackBerry keyboard. Android phones have had keyboards before, but very few of them were BlackBerry-level keyboards. It's an entirely unique experience, one that BlackBerry protects with everything they have.
The keys are specially shaped so you can type quickly without worrying about mashing multiple buttons, the backlight is high quality, and on recent models the entire keyboard doubles as a trackpad for quick interactions with the phone. It's what happens when you keep working on your keyboard long after the competition has moved on to all glass all the time, and the difference is amazing. Typing for long stretches is more comfortable on the Priv than on any other phone we've used in a long, long time.
The rest of the phone is pretty good too
If you're the kind of person who gets excited by a specs sheet, the BlackBerry Priv will make you happy. The Snapdragon 808 processor with 3GB of RAM on a 2K amoled display with a 3410mAh battery underneath makes for a whole lot of phone, and the curved glass to match the soft-touch curved back makes it super easy to hold with one hand.
While we get really excited about the keyboard, it's important to point out this phone is amazing even if you never slide the screen up to use that keyboard. It's not big and bulky like a lot of old keyboard sliders, either. This is an impressive piece of hardware, no matter who is looking to use it.
The camera is decent, but not really competing for the top slot
There have been some great Android phones this year, and one thing almost all of them have had in common is a spectacular camera. While the choice is great for everyone, it means the bar has been raised tremendously when considering a phone to purchase.
BlackBerry has packed an 18mp rear sensor in the back of the Priv, and it does an admirable job focusing in the right places and capturing a lot of detail and color, but it's not without flaws. The low light performance is alright but not great, and the time between tapping the capture button and saving the photo can vary wildly, which frequently leads to not capturing quite what you were hoping. These are software issues BlackBerry will hopefully address soon, but it's a problem right now.
There's also a 2mp front sensor on this phone, and while that was alright last year we've had a huge bump in selfie cameras on Android over the last year. The weaknesses in the front camera are almost all due to the small sensor, which just can't compete when there's too little or too much light around.
BlackBerry is really focusing on Security and Privacy
If you hear anything about the BlackBerry Priv from advertisements, the focus will almost assuredly be on the security features BlackBerry has introduced in order to ensure privacy is a privilege you can enjoy. It's probably something you'll see talked about as something other phones can't, don't, or won't do to protect their users, and some of those other phones will likely be Android phones.
BlackBerry is making big claims with the Priv, and a big part of that is being able to sell the phone to people who care about things like FIPS 140-2 Data at Rest and Data in Transit, or what kind of encryption is being used to protect data from prying eyes. It's a lot of very serious talk for very serious people, which you'd expect from BlackBerry. Will that matter to the average consumer? Probably not, but for those folks there's the BlackBerry DTEK app to help explain what is happening and why.
As security monitoring apps go, DTEK is fairly user friendly. It lets you know how secure you are being, and gives simple yet clear instructions on how to improve your personal security. It's a relatively small thing, and you don't ever have to use it if you don't want to, but as peace of mind goes this app probably helps a lot.
It's $700, but it really should be
In a world where the best Android phone you can buy starts at $500, asking $200 more for your phone is a great way to get laughed at. that having been said, the BlackBerry Priv is priced perfectly. If BlackBerry wanted to make a thin, sleek Android phone with no keyboard for $500, they could and it would be amazing.
The keyboard, the sliding mechanism, and the engineering that went into making this phone feel smaller than it has any right to feel in your hand has earned that extra $200. It's the kind of phone you buy when you know this is a feature you want, and you pay for that experience to be a quality one, and not a corner-cutting pile of garbage to compete in an area Google has clearly marked as theirs.
It's worth the extra cash if you genuinely want a keyboard, and if that's not you the Nexus 6P is obviously the way to go.