While there's a large group of Android users in full support of price being the biggest factor in what phone you get, there are some high-end phones absolutely worth considering. Samsung's phones this year are unparalleled in display quality and offer a quality experience with features no one else is offering right now, and the popularity of the new Note 5 reflects a desire to enjoy that experience. BlackBerry is another manufacturer to offer a quality high-end experience with unique features, not the least of which is a physical keyboard on a vertical slider with their new Priv.
If you sit these two experiences side-by-side, you'll see there's no shortage of differences between Samsung and BlackBerry's approach to building a high-end phone. We know, because we did, and now you can see just how different they are.
As a group, we smartphone fans have done a great job needlessly stigmatizing the use of plastic in a phone. The truth is any material can be done poorly, ask anyone who shattered the back of a Nexus 4 by moving it from a warm wireless charging pad to a cool granite counter or bent an iPhone 6 by sitting the wrong way. Plastic, like any other material, can feel premium when done correctly, and that's what happened with the BlackBerry Priv.
Both phones can be deeply personalized, which is part of what makes Android so awesome.
The Priv and the Note 5 feel like high-end phones for similar reasons, despite their obviously different construction. The curve on the back of these phones make them feel smaller than they actually are, which makes holding these phones in one hand when walking down the street a lot more comfortable. BlackBerry's use of soft-touch plastic makes this a little easier with the added grip, but when you see how much wider, heavier, and thicker the Priv is when compared to the Note 5 it's clear the phone really needs that grip to feel usable in the same situations. The Note 5 is also noticeably taller than the Priv, which can make using it with one hand a challenge.
It must be mentioned that the added thickness and weight on the Priv is due entirely to the slider mechanism and the four-row QWERTY keyboard it hides, which allows Priv owners to travel back in time and type for extended periods of time without swiping or correcting the auto-correct every couple of words. It's not something every smartphone user will feel like they need, but for those who want this experience you can enjoy it all day every day if you choose. Samsung sells something that tries to mimic the experience, but if there was ever a time to drop a stern-faced Captain America gif it would be when discussing that keyboard.
|Category||BlackBerry Priv||Note 5|
|OS||Android 5.1.1||Android 5.1.1|
|CPU/GPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
Adreno 418 GPU
|Samsung Exynos 7420
|Display||5.43-inch curved AMOLED
2560x1440 (540 ppi)
2560x1440 (518 ppi)
Corning Gorilla Glass 4
|Battery||3410 mAh||3000 mAh|
|Charging||Quick Charge 2.0||Adaptive Fast Charging|
|Wireless charging||Qi (some models)||Qi and Powermat|
|Rear camera||18MP, f/2.2
OIS, phase-detect autofocus, 4K video
OIS, phase-detect autofocus, LED flash, 1.12 µm pixel size, 4K video
|Front camera||2MP, f/2.8
wide angle lens
|Storage||32GB||32 or 64GB|
|Size||147 x 77.2 x 9.4 mm
184 x 77.2 x 9.4 mm (keyboard open)
|153.2 x 76.1 x 7.6 mm|
|Weight||192 g||171 g|
Software is another point in which these two phones differ wildly. While both of these phones are currently running Android 5.1.1 and are planning an update to Android 6.0 as quickly as possible, neither company has a history of being particularly fast with software updates. The current experience for Samsung is TouchWiz, which is all about bright colors and flat icons, with plenty of Samsung-made software and features on top of the Android experience. It's by far one of the more common interfaces on an Android phone due to the popularity of Samsung phones, and in recent years there has been an active effort to streamline TouchWiz so it seems less complicated and something anyone can use and enjoy.
BlackBerry, on the other hand, actively worked to make their software and feature set look and feel like it was a part of the Nexus-style Android experience, and even though they weren't always successful it's a look a lot of their audience appreciates. BlackBerry features on top of the Android experience is a new world for both BlackBerry and Android users, but so far the experience seems well received. It's a productivity-focused experience, but there's little to take away from this being something anyone can have fun with.
While both the BlackBerry Priv and the Galaxy Note 5 are exceptional phones, neither of these phones really appeal to everyone. BlackBerry's experience can be enjoyed if you never touch the keyboard, but sliding the screen up and getting down to business is what makes the phone exceptional. The Note 5 has the best display in the industry and a crazy-good camera, but it's still a big phone and you're probably going to want to put it in a case. Both phones can be deeply personalized and enjoyed, which is part of what makes Android so awesome, but choosing between the two is all about what you need in a phone today.