BlackBerry is once again trying to come back into the reckoning with a smartphone that runs Android, and not its own BB OS, but touts a QWERTY keyboard of the type unique to the Canadian smartphone company. A lot rests on the success of this phone and others that come in the series, and it could ultimately decide whether BlackBerry continues to keep making devices or start focusing on its service business completely.
Before you start comparing it to QWERTY old Blackberry, let me tell you that this is not a phone for everyone. It is clearly meant for top management, which has for many years been BlackBerry’s favourite clientele. It is priced to take on the top-end flagships like the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+. The price means even BlackBerry does not expect it to be a mass product.
Specs: 5.4-inch WQHD AMOLED display (2560 x 1440 pixels) | Snapdragon 808 processor | 3GB RAM | 32GB storage space (expandable to 200GB) | 18MP rear camera with OIS + 2MP front camera | 3410 mAh battery | Android 5.1 Lollipop
Price: Rs 62,999
What is good
For me, this is the best Android phone with a keyboard at the moment and that is a pretty place to be in for BlackBerry. I am very adept at typing really fast for long durations on the smartphone and tablet. But I’m still in a minority. There are lots of people who do it because they don’t have an option and the handful of Android devices with keyboards are low-end devices not really meant for power users. With BlackBerry stating that it’s going to roll out more Android devices that play to its strength of keyboards and security, this could be a niche the company can really tap into.
The keyboard is clearly the USP of this phone and is both functional and practical. But it also gives you full options to use just the virtual keyboard and not slide out the physical keys. BlackBerry will have a challenge getting people who have moved on from physical keys to adjust them again. However, it will be able to cash in on the thousands who have not been able to adjust to virtual keyboards. And yes, like in the Passport surface of the keypad can be used as a trackpad too.
Though running stock Android, BlackBerry has added some of its tweaks. I found the BlackBerry hub to be a great productivity app given that it plugs all my incoming messages into a single app with fewer chances of missing out on stuff. The gestures from BB10 OS have been added in a way to conjure what you need when you need it. Smart widgets pop up when the icon is swiped from top down and show all relevant information. It helps keep the home screens clean and clutter-free. I loved the shortcuts on the home screen to things you need the most like battery percentage, compose mail and so on. You will need to curate them a bit, but these are again very practical.
What is not good?
The BlackBerry Priv can become really hot, especially when you are browsing or using some of the apps. There is a spot about the size of a Rs 5 coin, just where you hold the phone, that heats up every time you use the phone for over five minutes or so. This also means the Priv has battery issues. When the heating starts, the phone tends to drain its battery in an hour.
I still believe the BlackBerry Passport had a great camera, but the Priv does not seem to live up to those expectations. The phone struggles with certain colours, especially bright red which bleeds all over the place. The camera also lacks details when the lighting is not good.
Should you buy?
Yes, if you are a BlackBerry lover and would like to explore Android too now. Yes, if you have moved to Android, but still can’t get used to typing on a touchscreen. Yes, if you want an Android flagship that will stand out in the crowd.
No, if you don’t really need the keyboard. No, if you can’t really afford a phone this expensive. No, if you don’t do anything serious with you phone yet.
I think the BlackBerry Priv is one of the best Android phones at the moment. One with a clear edge over the rest of the competition. But it is not a phone for everyone, and it seems even BlackBerry knows that.