Two Weeks With The BlackBerry Priv

I've gotten a few BBM's about how quiet things have been on my end since the Priv launch, so I wanted to write something up for those who care to read my honest experiences with the device.

So, I've had a Priv of my own for exactly to two weeks, and while the initial experience was sometimes hiccuped, I can't say I'd look back negatively on it. In disclosure, I'm not new to Android; I've had to keep at least one Android device on hand for the past 2 years for work - so a learning curve wasn't in the way when I picked up the phone for the first time. In fact, the last Android device I had was the Nexus 6, which packs Google's stock OS -- meaning the Priv's modified OS hardly felt like a transition to anything but a higher grade device.

H A R D W A R E

The Priv comes in an incredibly sturdy two main-component body: an aircraft grade aluminum frame which the top & display fit, and a rear backing which has a widely missed woven fiber composite appearance and rubberized texture that has amazing grip, and BlackBerry calls TensileKnit. We all know it has a curved OLED display, but the back is slightly curved too, which leaves it feeling ergonomically perfect. It's a serious phone, and you know it when you have it in hand.

The 3410mAh battery provides some pretty awesome life. Admittedly, I haven't transfered all of my email accounts to the Priv, so I haven't tested the power in comparison to the Passport just yet - but I've been able to squeeze around 20-22 hours per day out of it.

If I had to list my favourite hardware feature, it's probably the display. Text is crisp, and the Productivity Edge has some welcomed advantages when it comes to the curved display. Being able to quickly see my emails, favourite contacts, add a task or view my next meeting is something I didn't know I wanted until I found myself bringing it out multiple times in a day. It means I don't have to open a full app just to know what I have next. When LG and Samsung started playing with curved displays, I definitely found it gimmicky. The Priv changes that opinion in a heartbeat. Try it, you'll get it too.

(In case you were curious, Winstron is manufacturing this device with displays provided by Samsung and a strong partnership with Qualcomm for exclusive PIN injected chipsets)

S O F T W A R E

The Priv's software is getting very well-rounded. It definitely has some issues, like battery percentage inaccuracies, Hub sync issues, notification delays - but that's not to say it's not being worked on. In fact, the days before launch, we saw updates for the applications every single day (for the most part). Even core OS updates happened really frequently before I had my hands on one. It's shown me how hard things on this end have been worked on. While the Priv is a project that's actually quite old - the OS and Suite of BlackBerry apps are definitely newer in development.

If you haven't read the complaint about the lack of Android Marshmallow at launch, you probably haven't read a single review for the Priv yet. Something I find extremely silly to miff about, since Android 6 isn't the smoothest OS just yet. BlackBerry instead opted to go with Lollipop 5.1.1 since it was an already matured OS update with stability and in mass use when the Priv entered production. If it really matters to you, don't fret. The update is planned for next March, which should give more time to firm up not only the OS, but the apps.

Otherwise, Chen and the team have promised monthly updates for the device to push the security patches as quick as physically possible. It won't be an easy task, but if the device sales are going as well as I've heard, it's going to be incredibly crucial to maintaining the current consumers / early adapters.

One of the best parts when it comes to the Priv, is how much BlackBerry 10 has been injected into the core experience. BlackBerry didn't just throw a stock OS at us, and say this is good enough. The apps you need (or at least, I found to be needed) that keep you productive are here. Hub, Notes, Calendar, BBM, Contacts, Device Search, Tasks and more are all there - and work well together. While adding Google Play Services to BlackBerry 10 isn't allowed, this is BlackBerry's attempt at a compromise. Confidently, it has me convinced.

S P E A K E R

Probably one of the first things people ask, is about the speaker grill along the front of the chin.

It's loud, but it's also placed with purpose. Not only for space, but better on the ears than a rear-facing one. Admittedly, it's not quite as loud as the Passport's two bottom speakers, but it definitely get's the job done well. I don't use my phones for playing music very often - it streams to my car's infotainment system, but that's about it. Occasionally, I'll catch some Netflix when I have down time on-the-go, and the screen and speaker make for a wicked personal experience.

As a side-note: the grill is pretty prone to dust collection, though most modern speaker grills are too. Just be cautious what pockets the device is going into, or try scooping up an OEM leather pouch like I did from ShopBlackBerry.

The best way to experience it, is to head into a local carrier (where available) and try blasting some YouTube. Trying to find a video comparison isn't going to do you any good - trust me.

C A M E R A

A lot of people have miffed about BlackBerry's cameras for a long time - especially with BlackBerry 10.

Most fan's would know that the Cameras aren't the worst, but they're no DSLR of course. With the Passport, I think many could argue they tried to step it up, offering a 13MP sensor to the rear. The early photos I took for BlackBerryCentral's hands-on were shot on the Silver Edition Passport, and I think you can easily say that the camera has no trouble taking an amazingly clear shot. Low light is a different story, but to be honest, I never take pictures in troublesome lighting - so I can't touch on that.

With the Priv, BlackBerry didn't just toss in an average sensor. They went with something that other OEM's aren't offering - a Schneider KREUZNACH certified camera coming in at 18MP with OIS and Phase Detect Fast-Focusing. It's stunning, though you'll definitely notice some noise with select images (something that should be fixed as the software is updated).

Check out these samples I took on the device:

K E Y B O A R D

With the Priv, you couldn't ask for a better typing set-up. Not only do you have a best-in-class virtual keyboard, but you also have a full 4-row 35-key backlit physical keyboard concealed under the display. It's also touch-sensitive, so scrolling through blocks of text is incredibly easy and won't cloud the screen real estate. The virtual keyboard is essentially Google's stock keyboard combined with Fleksy in a BlackBerry mask - but it functions exactly as you'd expect: word prediction, swipe to delete, symbol gestures, etc.. If you happen to not be a big fan of it, no worries - head to the Google Play store, and download one that suites your fancy.

When it comes to the physical keyboard, you may have a mixed experience. Since the profile of the device is incredibly thin, the keys won't give the same feedback you'd get on a device like the Classic, but they still have a nice amount of give. One issue I'll mention, is that I seem to run into a cold keyboard that gives frequent missed key presses unless you ensure pressure. Not my fingers, but the keyboard not responding to all presses. It's rare, but it happens enough for me to find it an issue. It's the second unit I've had, and it's present on both. When the day is warm or mild, the keyboard functions flawlessly, and I can type almost as fast as on the Passport. Keep in mind, I live in Waterloo Canada, so cold days are pretty darn common between November and January. If you have a Priv, I'd love to hear if this is an issue you've come across at all.

Overall, the keyboard offerings on this device are 100% unsurpassed by any other Android manufacturer, period.

B L A C K B E R R Y  S O F T W A R E  S U I T E

The Priv comes with BlackBerry's experience suite of apps pre-installed, with some being part of the core OS such as BBM.

Here's what you get:

  • BBM
  • BBM Meetings
  • BlackBerry Help
  • BlackBerry Hub
  • BlackBerry Launcher
  • BlackBerry Services
  • Calendar
  • Camera
  • Contacts
  • Content Transfer
  • Device Search
  • DTEK by BlackBerry
  • Notes
  • Password Keeper
  • Tasks

With BlackBerry Services installed, these apps all work in unison to bring the Android OS back to Earth with a BlackBerry 10 comfort. Of course, each app is tailored to the Android OS, and conforms to the material design standards.

Function wise, you can get nearly the same experience as you'd expect coming from BlackBerry 10. I have to say, that the shortcuts BlackBerry intgrated on Android, along with the Experience Suite of apps like Calendar, Notes, Taks and BBM have made me more productive on Priv than any BlackBerry 10 device I've had.

W H O  I S  P R I V  F O R

Thinking about picking up a Priv? Here's who BlackBerry says the device is aimed at:

"PRIV will be the solution for smartphone users who are learning daily of the lack of privacy they have on their current devices. PRIV will be the answer for former BlackBerry users who miss the physical keyboard but needed apps. And, we’re responding to current – and prospective – BlackBerry users who need it all: choice, innovation, security, privacy and productivity." - John Chen, CEO, BlackBerry

Here's who I think should get one:

The security concious consumer - who needs access to social apps, a device that connects them to the world, but has their privacy in mind.

The enterprise customer who left - because apps are important to what they do, productivity is a must, and security is a priority.

The BlackBerry Prosumer - that wants to support the companys newest device, and try a new style of BlackBerry experience. This is the companies hardware future, and you're willing to get on board.

 

P R O - A D V A N T A G E S

  • Great Display
  • Android 5.1.1 Over 6
  • Clear Front-Facing Speaker
  • Sturdy & Appealing Design
  • Un-matched Keyboard Quality
  • Competitive Camera Capabilities
  • Long Lasting Battery
  • BlackBerry Apps
  • Unique & Customizable Android Experience

C O N - N E G A T I V E S

The Priv is an incredibly device no doubt. But what are some less-than positive things about it?

  • Hub Lacks Behind BB10
  • Occassional PKB Issues
  • Notification Delays
  • Front Facing Camera Quality
  • No BlackBerry Blend (Yet)
  • Device Gets HOT With Game Use
  • Rear Camera Noise / Clarity

F I N A L  C O N C L U S I O N S

The first BlackBerry I used was an 8700, moving to the 8800, 9000, 9500, 9700, 9550, 9800, 9900, Z10, Q10, Z30, Passport, Passport SE. I've owned a lot of devices, and despite the initial issues, Priv is hands-down my favourite BlackBerry handset to date.

This is a device to marvel, and pulling it out in public will guarantee you at least 4 sets of eyes, and plenty of questions. I can't really compare it to the Passport awe that folks had when I'd show it off around launch - because people seem to not want to hand the device back this time around. Apps are the biggest selling point, security is a bonus, and the physical keyboard seems to seal the deal with users. For me, having a device that has kept my schedule productive has been most important. The Priv definitely shines in that division.

Did I ditch my Passport for the Priv? No way. I actually have a hard time leaving the Silver Edition to collect dust while I use the Priv - it keeps calling me back. Keyboard wise, I can't see myself being as efficient or fast as on the Passport, but that's because less finger travel means faster emails and BBMs. Otherwise, Android can't really compete in the multitasking department like BlackBerry 10 - and I'm sure that's another draw back for most. We'll have to see what BlackBerry can do, since other OEM's can't seem to even come close. Lack of Blend is probably one of my biggest beef's with Priv. I'm constantly at my desk throughout the day, and being able to access my device without having to touch it has become a learned habit that's hard to lose. Sure, Blend is coming for Priv, but that's still been inconveniencing for a BlackBerry 10 convert. I'm hoping that by March we see it introduced.

Keep in mind, the Priv has only been out for a week. Software will be updated, and most of the issues mentioned will likely be fixed in two months time. Expecting a perfect device would be unrealistic; I knew that going in. All devices from any company have their flaws, BlackBerry isn't exempt from that.

Overall, I'm in love. The Priv has (almost) all the things I'd ever need or want in a device. A good camera, superb screen, solid build, and all the BlackBerry goodies I truly need as a professional. Do I think you should buy a Priv? Totally. If you're in the market for a new device that has apps, keyboard options, and a strong focus on security - give it a try. After using it, it feels like there's no device like it.

Imagine having an Android phone that doesn't really conform to the average Android phone, but doesn't really feel 100% BlackBerry either. It's something in-between, and it's awesome.

 

Have You Scooped Up A Priv Yet? Let Me Know How You're Liking It!