Has BlackBerry finally come up with a new phone to get excited about? We take a closer look at the key BlackBerry Priv features.
The BlackBerry Priv represents something we haven’t seen for quite some time - a new BlackBerry phone that people are actually interested in.
Normal people too, not just fat cat executives and IT heads who tend to buy their phones on bulk order. The Priv has got people talking.
It could also prove to be BlackBerry’s final throw of the hardware dice before it jacks it all in and becomes a pure security software company.
Any way you look at it, the BlackBerry Priv is a seriously interesting phone. Here’s what it’s going to have to offer.
Related: Blackberry Priv review
Despite being an Android phone, this is still resolutely a BlackBerry. The presence of a physical qwerty keyboard testifies to that.
In this case it’s a best-of-both worlds scenario, as the full keyboard glides out from behind a full-sized touchscreen display via an aircraft-grade aluminium sliding mechanism.
There’s still a virtual keyboard on offer here when the keyboard is stowed away, but as soon as it slides out the virtual option automatically disappears. This slide-out action also serves as a shortcut to answer the phone, unlock the screen, or launch the Device Search function, depending on the context.
The other cool feature on the Priv’s keyboard is that it’s touch sensitive. This is a feature brought over from the BlackBerry Passport, and it means that fine-tuned navigation will be possible even when the touchscreen display has been shifted a couple of inches northward. It’s useful for scrolling and fine cursor control, just like a laptop trackpad.
This physical keyboard also has advantages within the BlackBerry Hub. We’ll discuss that feature in more depth a little later, but for now know that you can use keyboard shortcuts to carry out a variety of tasks. Quickly compose a message with ‘C,’ search with ‘S,’ mark a message as unread with ‘M,’ and so on.
You simply don’t get phones with physical keyboards any more. This one feature alone makes the BlackBerry Priv stand out from the crowd.
DTEK privacy controls
The second thing you’d most commonly associate with the BlackBerry brand, after the keyboard, is security and privacy. There’s a reason businesses like them so much, you know.
While the move to Android has led some to question whether this will remain the case with the Priv, BlackBerry has initiated a number of measures to keep things private.
Take the Priv’s DTEK privacy controls, for instance. DTEK provides a single dashboard to monitor and control application access to your microphone, camera, location and personal information.
It also assigns an overall security rating to your device, and a rating for each of the security features it monitors. If these ratings are anything less than ‘Excellent,’ DTEK will recommend a way to improve things.
You can also set it up to notify you of specific app activities, so you’ll always know what’s happening on your phone.
Related: iPhone 6S vs Galaxy S6
Tied in with that physical keyboard, to many people the BlackBerry brand signifies easy communication. It’s fitting, then, that the Priv’s BlackBerry Hub brings all of your communications under one roof.
Emails, SMS messages, and social media all sit alongside calendar entries and even phone calls within a single app UI. You can filter messages by account type, or have them all sat together with easy-to-decipher icons signifying each communication service.
You’ll also find a powerful search function that allows you to find contacts and key words across all of these accounts simultaneously.
When typing out messages in the BlackBerry Hub, you also get far more formatting options than you do in a typical email app. These includes a toolbar that allows you to use bold, italics, underlining, bullet points, and other word processor-like modifications.
Another innovative addition the Priv makes to the Android OS is pop-up widgets. Android has always supported widgets, of course, but more than one or two tends to clutter the screen up.
BlackBerry’s solution is to repurpose widgets as discrete optional overlays. Swipe your finger over an app icon on the home screen, and a related widget will appear. You can then interact with it just as you would if it were pinned to the homescreen as normal.
Getting rid of this pop-up widget is as simple as hitting the back or home button, or just tapping outside the widget.
If there’s more than one widget for an app, meanwhile, you’ll be presented with a widget selector. You’ll know which apps have pop-up widgets available by the three horizontal dots under their app icon.
Dual-curved UHD display
As we’ve already mentioned, the BlackBerry Priv aims to please everyone with a full-sized touchscreen display.
It’s a large 5.4-inch affair, too, which places it in similar territory to the OnePlus 2 and iPhone 6S Plus.
The Priv’s screen is much sharper than both of those aforementioned rivals, though. BlackBerry is going with a QHD resolution, which works out to 2560 x 1440 pixels. That’s the same resolution as can be found in the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the LG G4, though it’s a little sharper than those examples thanks to a pixel density of 540ppi.
This is also an OLED display we’re talking about here, like that of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+. This means that blacks are properly black, and colours are far more vibrant than you tend to find on LCD equivalents.
Another unique feature of the Priv’s display is its dual-curved edges. We say unique, but it’s actually a very similar effect to that found on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge family.
BlackBerry has arguably made better use of this feature than Samsung, however. Along the curved edge, you get a productivity tab that provides an at-a-glance update of the latest Hub information.
The BlackBerry Priv runs on Android, and sure enough, it’ll run on the kind of processor you’d expect to find in a 2015 Android flagship phone.
We’re talking about a Snapdragon 808 CPU backed by 3GB of RAM. That’s not quite the top-end Snapdragon 810 of the Sony Xperia Z5 and Nexus 6P, but it’s still highly capable.
Indeed, the Snapdragon 808 has driven the likes of the LG G4 and the Nexus 5X - both capable phones, if not quite top of the performance charts.
Elsewhere, the Priv has 32GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot for up to 2TB of additional hot-swappable storage. Nothing spectacular, then, but it’s worth pointing out that many recent Android flagships have eschewed microSD expansion altogether.
The Priv also has an 18-megapixel Schneider-Kreuznach certified camera with OIS, and all this is powered by a large 3410 mAh battery.
Oh, and do you see those laser-drilled holes along the bottom of the keyboard? That’s a front-facing speaker, which means clear and unobstructed sound. That’s further enhanced by a BlackBerry Natural Sound algorithm, which is said to adapt the sound output according to how you hold the Priv.