Review: Updated: BlackBerry Priv

Introduction and design

Update: BlackBerry has now released its Android 6 Marshmallow update for the Priv and it comes with a selection of new BB specific features as well as the tweaks Google provides. You can download the update right now.

Well this is a turn-up for the books. After almost four years of banging the BlackBerry 10 drum it seems the Canadian firm has finally admitted defeat, launching its first Android smartphone in the BlackBerry Priv.

It’s not entirely a surprise – the Priv was rumored for months under the codename Venice, and a move to the Android platform makes sense.

BlackBerry 10 suffered from a severe lack of top-flight applications, and an interface which wasn’t quite as intuitive for the general public as the now familiar Android and iOS.

That’s all been addressed, with the BlackBerry Priv sporting Google’s stock Android platform, and with it access to the app-packed Play Store. In fact, it recently received an update to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, which brought with it a number of further tweaks and improvements.

Coupled with a tasty sounding display, some handy BB apps and BlackBerry’s legendary keyboard the Priv is finally helping the Canadian firm to make some positive strides in the market. But is it all a little too late again from the firm that was left behind by the original smartphone revolution?

BlackBerry Priv review

BlackBerry is evidently convinced that it’s done a good thing with its decision to switch to a new OS, as it’s planning three more Android-powered handsets for 2016.

The BlackBerry Priv’s 5.4-inch QHD display, Snapdragon 808 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage and 18MP rear camera means it stands up against the flagship competition of 2015 – the problem is, it arrived around six months later, and 2016 has seen a new batch of pumped-up competitors like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and the HTC 10.

One thing the Priv has on its side compared to those newer models is price. If you shop around, you can pick one up SIM-free for around £450 in the UK (roughly AU$779), or for around $400 in the US. It’s the same benefit/curse of every Android flagship more than three months old, but it’s still a bonus.

Of course there’s another related problem here, in that the Priv’s contemporaries have also dropped in price since launch – in many cases by a good deal more.

You can pick up a brand new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, HTC One M9, LG G4, Nexus 6P or Sony Xperia Z3+ for less than the Priv – and these remain some of the best phones in the world, irrespective of the fact that most have since been superseded.

The BlackBerry Priv has its work cut out then, if it’s going to convince people to part with more cash and shun the established names in the Android market.

The ‘Priv’ name stands for Privacy, but on the box it also says Privilege, so things are a little confusing from the outset. But it’s not all bad news, as BlackBerry has managed to make a surprisingly good handset.

BlackBerry Priv review

Design

The BlackBerry Priv is a smartphone I’ve been genuinely excited to see, as it brings something different to the Android market, and I was pretty content when I got it in my hands.

It’s been years since I had a slider phone – I loved my Nokia N95 – and the satisfying sound and action as you pop open and close the BlackBerry Priv will no doubt transport you back to the early noughties, when slider phones were big business.

There’s a slight metal ridge towards the bottom of the Priv, between the screen glass and front-facing speaker, enabling you to get your thumb under and push the handset up to reveal the keyboard.

BlackBerry Priv review

Push the screen two-thirds of the way up the keyboard and the Priv will complete the sliding pop action for you. I found myself idly playing with the slider throughout the day – there’s something comforting about flicking the Priv open and closed.

Satisfying slide action aside, the BlackBerry Priv isn’t exactly small, and nor is it lightweight. At 147 x 77.2 x 9.4mm the Priv is sizeable in the hand, although not completely dominating.

I was able to hold it one-handed and perform basic tasks, but for intensive periods of writing you’ll want to hold on with both mitts, especially when you consider that the Priv tips the scales at 192g. Just to place that in context, the Nexus 6, which many have derided for its excessive bulk, weighs ‘just’ 184g.

BlackBerry Priv review

Flip the phone’s display up to reveal the keyboard and the height extends to 184mm, which feels very top-heavy when you’re tapping away on the keys – but more on that in the next section.

BlackBerry has followed in Samsung’s footsteps when it comes to the screen, as the Priv sports dual-curved sides just like the Galaxy S7 Edge and Galaxy S6 Edge before it. The edges aren’t quite as pronounced as Samsung’s implementation, but it still generates an eye-catching effect which draws the eye in.

The glass front surrounded by a metal rim, which is raised at the top and bottom to protect the screen when it’s face-down, makes the Priv appear suitably premium. Pick it up, though, and the illusion is somewhat shattered.

BlackBerry Priv review

BlackBerry has clad the back and sides of the Priv in what it calls a tensile weave, which basically means it’s not metal or glass, but what feels like rubbery plastic.

It’s the same finish as found on the Q10 and Z30, and while it does have a nicer finish than the plastic Samsung used to insist on splashing on its flagships it’s certainly no match for the elegance of the iPhone 6S, One M9 or Galaxy S6.

The plus side here is that the material is extremely grippy, and the rounded edges of the BlackBerry Priv means it can be held securely in hand.

BlackBerry Priv review

I found the plastic covering to be a little creaky in places too, and applying just a small amount of pressure on the side below the power/lock key generated a squeaking noise from my launch handset. The second handset we got in for testing further down the line doesn’t have this issue, however, so it may just have been a one-off or an issue with the initial batch.

The rear of the Priv is dominated by a sizeable, protruding Schneider Kreuznach camera sensor, with a dual-LED flash to its side. These, plus the iconic BlackBerry logo, are the only features on the flat rear of the handset.

BlackBerry Priv review

On top you’ll find trays for the nanoSIM and microSD card, while on the base a centralized microUSB port resides next to a headphone jack.

All in all, the BlackBerry Priv is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to design. I love the slider action and the dual-curved display, but it’s let down by a weighty construction and creaky plastic.

Physical and digital keyboards

BlackBerry did away with its iconic physical keyboard for its first ‘proper’ smartphones, the Z10 and Z3; but if there’s one thing fans love it’s those uniquely angled keys beneath their fingertips.

With the Priv Blackberry gives you the best of both worlds, with the keyboard nicely tucked away behind the neat sliding mechanism, much like the BlackBerry Torch from many moons ago.

In addition to double-tapping the screen and clicking the power/lock key there’s a third way to wake the display on the BlackBerry Priv: just slide up to reveal the keyboard.

From here (assuming you don’t have a screen lock) you can then use the keyboard itself to quick-launch applications, or use it as a trackpad to scroll through home screens by swiping sideways over it.

Hold any key button down and a pop-up menu will appear (slowly) on screen prompting you to assign a quick action to that key. Actions include opening a particular app, providing a shortcut to a contact or starting a new message or email.

BlackBerry Priv review

The Priv will suggest contacts and apps based on the letter you’re attempting to program, and your usage – hold ‘C’ down and it’ll suggest apps such as Clock and Calculator, and people such as Craig and Claire.

When you’re in an app you can use the trackpad features of the keyboard to scroll up and down pages – especially handy when it comes to skipping through your inbox or scrolling down a long email.

It also means you don’t have to adjust your grip as frequently to reach the touchscreen, enabling you to keep your hands around the keyboard area.

While I was able to type one-handed on the BlackBerry Priv, it was a little awkward and I’d certainly recommend employing both hands – especially as the Priv becomes rather top heavy when the keyboard is revealed.

The fact you have to hold the handset so low down to hit the keys means the Priv does feel like it wants to flip out of your hands.

BlackBerry Priv review

For those coming from fully touchscreen devices the keyboard on the Priv will likely feel outdated and clunky. The keys are small, and I continually found myself hitting the wrong letters.

Perhaps my action isn’t the best, but on-screen keyboards are so good now that the physical option feels redundant. The Priv is not only easier to hold when you use the on-screen board, I also found the digital keyboard was more accurate and easier to type on.

BlackBerry keyboard loyalists may well disagree, and that’s fine – I totally get that for some people physical keys are still king – but for many of us, on-screen typing is now the way to go.

However, there’s a new proposition for modern touch keyboard fans in the Android Marshmallow update. You can turn on a hybrid system that lets you type by touching and swiping between physical keys, with the word prediction system speeding the process up further. Yes, it’s like Swype or SwiftKey, but the tactile nature of the Priv’s keys gives it an intriguing edge.

Whether it’s actually any better or not would take a more dedicated Swyper than myself to ascertain, but there’s no doubting that it works.

BlackBerry has transitioned its touch keyboard from BB10 to Android, with next-word predictions appearing above individual character keys – these can be added to your message by swiping up over them, saving you from having to type out the whole word.

A swipe down on the board will take you to the numbers and symbols panel, which is a handy addition, although it doesn’t feel as fully formed as the likes of SwiftKey.

BlackBerry Priv review

If you really don’t get on with BlackBerry’s board you can always download a third-party offering from the Play Store – this is, after all, Android.

Something else I noticed during my time with the BlackBerry Priv was the build-up of dust in the ridges beside the physical keyboard; it wasn’t huge amount, but after months of use the Priv could start to look a little grubby.

Then there’s the gaping hole at the top of the handset when you’ve slid the Priv open – it’s just asking for pocket lint to build up in there.

Display and BlackBerry apps

Display

BlackBerry has stuck with a far more traditional smartphone screen for the Priv, avoiding the awkward squares of the Classic and Passport, with a 5.4-inch QHD dual-curved display.

The gently sloping edges allow the BlackBerry Priv to sit a little more snugly in the hand, and give the Priv an impressive look when illuminated.

With a resolution of 2560 x 1440 the display matches the LG G4 and Galaxy S6, as well as newer phones like the Galaxy S7 and HTC 10, and across the 5.4-inch surface area it equates to a pin-sharp 540ppi pixel density.

BlackBerry Priv review

The AMOLED technology ensures colors are bright and vibrant, and I certainly enjoyed looking at the Priv’s screen during my review.

BlackBerry has included the facility to double-tap to wake the screen, which I found was easier than hitting the power/lock key on the left of the handset – although it does result in a slightly disconcerting rattle due to the give between the screen and keyboard portions.

If you’re left-handed the power key falls nicely under thumb, but for those who frequently hold their mobile in their right hand it’s not as easy to hit.

You can also wake the phone by sliding the BlackBerry Priv’s screen up, which is what I found myself doing most of the time.

Thing is, I didn’t always require the keyboard – I was driven to sliding by force of habit, and would immediately push the screen down again to continue whatever I was doing.

BlackBerry Priv review

Your one-stop shop

The BlackBerry Priv may run stock Android, but it still comes with some of the Canadian firm’s applications.

One of the big additions here is the BlackBerry Hub, which debuted on BlackBerry 10. It’s actually one of the best features from the beleaguered operating system, bringing together all your communication channels in one easy to consume application.

From text messages, BBMs and multiple email accounts to missed calls and social updates, everything is hauled into the BlackBerry Hub. You can view all your notifications in one unified inbox, or filter by account if you’re just too popular. Android Marshmallow has added S/MIME support, letting you digitally sign and encrypt your emails.

BlackBerry Priv review

When viewing your inbox you can swipe a message right to left to delete it, while moving your finger in the opposite direction enables you to set up a reminder, prompting the Priv to display the message as a new alert sometime in the future.

You can select a time for the reminder, or a location, or a connected device – so if you want it to buzz you as you step through your front door, or when the Priv connects to your home Wi-Fi network, you can do just that.

Swiping down from the BlackBerry Hub inbox, meanwhile, will raise any upcoming events from your calendar, which is a genuinely helpful feature to have on hand in a messaging app.

BlackBerry Priv review

The Hub isn’t perfect though, as third-party apps such as WhatsApp don’t feed into it, which is a little annoying. However, there are more services being added all the time, with Android Marshmallow bringing the likes of Slack, Skype, and Pinterest to the party. What’s neat is that the Priv will spot when you download and sign into these apps, and will integrate them into BlackBerry Hub automatically.

There are also separate apps for phone calls, texts and emails already installed on the Priv, so you can ignore the Hub entirely if you want.

Is anyone out there?

Another app that comes pre-installed on the BlackBerry Priv is BBM, the firm’s famed messaging application. Trouble is, BBM has dropped out of the consumer limelight in recent years, with iMessage, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and co all but supplanting it.

The upshot is that I didn’t have one friend who had BBM installed on their iPhone or Android device, or even their BlackBerry, making the app a bit of a waste of space.

In business sectors BBM may still have a big pull, and for those who rely on it its inclusion here will be beneficial, but for many it’s a fruitless endeavour on the part of BlackBerry.

To make the transition between your old phone and the BlackBerry Priv easier the Content Transfer app is included. This helps you to transition your way from Android, iOS, BlackBerry or Windows Phone, and it’s a handy app, even if you’ll only ever use it once or twice.

On lockdown

One of the big draws of BlackBerry devices, especially for businesses, is the added security they offer. The BlackBerry Priv can be controlled by a firm’s BES back-end system, as can all Android phones, but the Priv offers something extra.

BlackBerry has hardened both its hardware and software to make them more secure, and you can control various privacy settings via a dedicated app on the Priv.

BlackBerry Priv review

Fire up the DTEK by BlackBerry app and you’re instantly met with a visualization of your handset’s security status. The app then has a series of settings which you can enable to increase the Priv’s security level.

Basic suggestions, such as adding a screen lock and enabling remote device management, are joined by more granular controls for individual applications and system checks, such as whether you’re using official BlackBerry hardware and software.

Following the update to Android Marshmallow, DTEK also enables you to be notified when specific apps request access to certain types of personal data – and to then deny access to, say, your camera or contacts without restricting access to the app.

BlackBerry Priv review

For those concerned about their smartphone privacy and security, DTEK is a welcome addition which is easy to use. It’s a level of security not witnessed on many Android smartphones, with the exception of devices such as Blackphone.

I especially liked the app controls, which show the features each app accesses and when it accesses them. If an app keeps checking in on your microphone when you’re not using it, DTEK can flag it and you can then uninstall.

BlackBerry has also committed to monthly security updates for the Priv, ensuring the handset is protected against the latest Android vulnerabilities highlighted by Google.

All this makes the BlackBerry Priv one of the most secure Android devices on the market, which will be an attractive feature for businesses.

Interface and performance

As I’ve already highlighted in this review, one of the big draws of the BlackBerry Priv is that it runs Android rather than BlackBerry 10, instantly giving the handset a much wider appeal than its predecessors.

In fact, the Priv now sports the stock version of Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, giving you a clean, fuss-free interface.

In truth, I had to go through the somewhat hairy (but officially supported) autoloader process to update my test handset to the latest OS version, as it didn’t seem to recognise that an OTA update was available. This was despite trying EE, Vodafone, and Three SIMs in my unlocked Priv handset. I’ve read reports that slotting in an O2 SIM kickstarts the OTA process, but I can’t confirm this.

Anyway, having Android on board means you have access to Google’s suite of applications, including the well-stocked app store. One of the biggest bugbears for consumers using BlackBerry 10 devices was the lack of certain apps on the platform, and with BlackBerry moving to Android that issue has been rectified.

BlackBerry Priv review

BlackBerry has added its iconic red and white splat notification to the interface on the Priv, with the circular icon appearing on the corner of an app’s icon to let you know a new message has arrived within it. I found that this jarred a little with the slick Android design, but it’s nothing too major.

It’s joined by another BlackBerry stalwart, a blinking LED above the screen, the color of which changes depending on the type of notification received.

As I mentioned in the previous section, BlackBerry has pre-installed a selection of its own applications on the Priv, but it’s a small number and they’re generally quite useful.

That’s not all though, as it’s also added the Productivity Tab. This is a slender bar which resides at the edge of the screen, on the curve, giving you quick access to your calendar appointments, emails, tasks and favorite contacts, on any screen.

BlackBerry Priv review

It’s a similar idea to the Edge Screen on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, and you can choose whether it sits to the left or right of the display, adjust the length of the bar and tweak its transparency to your personal liking.

If you don’t like it, you can turn it off completely; it’s worth keeping it switched on, though, as it’s unobtrusive, and while I didn’t use it a great deal it was handy for quickly checking my emails or making a phone call.

Another clever feature BlackBerry has built into the Android interface on the Priv is its pop-up widgets. Instead of filling home screens with sizable blocks, you can instead slide up over an app icon to view the available widgets associated with it.

Apps with companion widgets have three horizontal dots below their icon, and sliding up (or down) brings up a window showing you the various widgets on offer. Tapping a widget makes it pop up on screen so that you can view and interact with it.

BlackBerry Priv review

This saves you precious home screen space, and also saves you having to fully open an app if you just want to quickly check something.

Swiping up from the home button on Android phones used to launch Google Now, but the BlackBerry Priv with Android Marshmallow is a little different. Simply press and hold and you’ll access Google Now on Tap, but swipe up and you’ll get the Phone app, which is joined to the left and right by shortcuts to the Blackberry Hub and Device Search.

For active users of the Hub or Device Search this is useful integration, and because it’s hidden from view for those who don’t use it, it won’t get in the way.

BlackBerry Priv review

Back in December 2015, BlackBerry pushed an update through to the phone improving areas such as the camera, performance and the security of the device.

It brought with it some features you’d already expect the phone to have at launch though. You can now take 16:9 photos within the BlackBerry Camera app and the whole picture taking experience has become smoother and faster – albeit still not perfect, as we’ll go on to discuss.

Emojis are now included within predictive typing – plus Marshmallow brings over 200 more – as well and there’s a few little changes to make the performance of the phone a little bit better.

Performance

The BlackBerry Priv’s performance is, unfortunately, a little hit and miss. It comes with a Snapdragon 808 processor and 3GB of RAM, matching that of the LG G4, the Nexus 5X and Moto X Style, so it’s not exactly underpowered.

In the early days of the Priv, under Android Lollipop, that power didn’t always translate well on screen. Generally, Android ran smoothly when it came to skipping through home screens and firing up apps, but I experienced a worrying amount of lag and even the odd freeze-up.

Fortunately, the update to Android Marshmallow has gone some way to improving the Priv’s general performance, it still doesn’t offer the snappiest Android experience though.

Holding down a key on the physical keyboard to assign it to a quick action continues to result in a noticeable pause before anything happens, for example – but it feels far more like a premium phone than it used to.

When it comes to the proper heavy lifting, the Priv isn’t found wanting either. Games such as Dead Trigger 2 and Vainglory loaded in good time and ran smoothly on the Priv – which makes the odd performance glitches elsewhere all the more confusing.

The Priv also had a habit of heating up at seemingly random times. I could be playing an intensive game and the temperature would stay relatively low, but then I’d switch to emails it would suddenly heat up. It never got to scorching levels, but it was certainly noticeable, and unexpected.

Running the Geekbench app on the BlackBerry Priv garnered an average multi-core score of 2977. That’s not the best result for a flagship smartphone, even one from the 2015 vintage, and the Priv is comfortably beaten by the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (4774), S6 Edge+ (4949), iPhone 6S Plus (4309), HTC One M9 (3803) and Moto X Style (3557).

It’s certainly not the worst performer out there, and it can run any app you throw at it, but you’ll just have to accept that you may have to wait around at times while the Priv catches up with you.

Camera

One of BlackBerry’s core focuses for the Priv is the camera, and it’s equipped the handset with an 18MP Schneider Kreuznach sensor on the rear.

The camera itself is a sizable presence on the back of the Priv, protruding from the tensile weave back cover and accompanied by a dual-LED flash to one side. BlackBerry highlights the DSLR-like qualities of the Priv’s camera, which boasts a high frame rate and fast focusing.

The Priv’s camera app is a relatively straightforward affair, with a distinct shutter key flanked by a camera switch key, gallery link, mode select and ‘live filters’ to add some Instagram glam to your shots.

BlackBerry Priv review

At the top of the display is another menu bar with toggles for the flash, HDR mode, aspect ratio, time and advanced settings menu. There’s not a huge array of options in the advanced menu, with toggles for picture quality, video resolution, geo-location tags and the option to save images to a microSD card.

You do get some control over your shots though, with tap-to-focus present and an exposure slider at the base of the viewfinder, which is especially useful when shooting at night.

Dive into the camera modes and again BlackBerry has kept things fairly minimal on the Priv, with video and panorama your main options – plus the addition of slo-mo video with the Android Marshmallow update.

BlackBerry Priv review

Head into video mode and you can choose from 720p, 1080p or 4K recording, enabling you to shoot satisfying footage with the Priv; it won’t be Oscar-winning quality, but it won’t let you down when you play it back on your computer or TV.

Talking of Oscars, the Android Marshmallow update has brought with it the ability to record 4K video at a movie-like 24fps. Alternatively, as I just mentioned, you can now crank things right up to 120fps at 720p and slow a portion of your choosing right down during playback. It’s similar to Apple’s execution on the iPhone 5S and subsequent smartphones, but not quite as slick.

Going back to shooting photos, the BlackBerry Priv’s rear camera performs well. I was able to capture both highly detailed close-ups and well-focused landscapes with ease.

I was impressed with the camera’s low light capabilities when I dropped the exposure at night, although indoor shots under poor lighting can end up looking rather grainy.

BlackBerry Priv review

The camera was sluggish at times though, and I experienced a delay between hitting the shutter and snapping a photo, and a further delay in saving the image, on more than one occasion. Tapping to view your image back is also accompanied by an irritating delay.

BlackBerry has improved the speed of the Priv’s camera app a little since launch, but it still isn’t as responsive as we’d expect from a modern flagship phone.

The front-facing 2MP camera is serviceable, but don’t expect anything special from it. For the odd selfie or video chat it’s fine, but it can’t hold a candle to the front-facing snappers on some of the Priv’s rivals.

I was pleasantly surprised by the main camera on the Priv, though. Historically BlackBerry has struggled to put decent cameras in its smartphones, but that’s not usually been a huge issue due to the firm’s focus on business users.

An Android device needs a strong camera though, and the Priv doesn’t disappoint. It’s not the best smartphone snapper on the market, but it’ll take great shots the majority of the time.

Camera samples

BlackBerry Priv review

Click here for the full resolution image

BlackBerry Priv review

Click here for the full resolution image

BlackBerry Priv review

Click here for the full resolution image

BlackBerry Priv review

Click here for the full resolution image

BlackBerry Priv review

Click here for the full resolution image

BlackBerry Priv review

Click here for the full resolution image

BlackBerry Priv review

Click here for the full resolution image

BlackBerry Priv review

Click here for the full resolution image

Battery life

BlackBerry has managed to squeeze a sizeable 3,410mAh non-removable battery in the Priv, which is one of the largest power packs in either the 2015 or 2016 flagship lineup.

The Canadian firm claims the BlackBerry Priv is good for 22.5 hours of “mixed usage” on a single charge with, and to be fair the Priv does get close to that figure.

I found that the Priv comfortably saw out a full day (7:30am to 11:30pm) on a single charge. A day’s usage usually consisted of an hour or so of Google Play Music streaming, a handful of calls and texts, and multiple emails and WhatsApp messages, along with healthy doses of web browsing and gaming.

BlackBerry Priv review

This means the BlackBerry Priv comfortably matches the battery performance of its flagship rivals, with a full day now the benchmark for our top-flight phones.

In fact, BlackBerry and Google appear to have improved the Priv’s battery life with the update to Android Marshmallow – partly thanks, no doubt, to Google’s new Doze system. Doze reduces battery usage drastically whenever the phone is inactive for a protracted spell.

I ran the 90-minute HD video test on the Priv, with screen brightness on full and various accounts syncing over Wi-Fi in the background. At the end of the video the BlackBerry Priv had lost 13% of its juice. That’s a great result, and also happens to be a 7% improvement on the same test pre-Marshmallow.

It puts the Priv well ahead of the similarly sized iPhone 6S Plus (22% loss) and roughly equal to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (14%), while performing way better than the HTC One M9 (31%) and Moto X Style (30%).

For those planning on transitioning from the BlackBerry Classic or BlackBerry Passport, the Priv’s battery performance is also about on a par with those devices, but if you’re looking to finally upgrade from an older Bold or Curve the Priv won’t last as long.

BlackBerry Priv review

If you do start running low the good news is that the BlackBerry Priv comes with Quick Charge, enabling you to get seven hours of usage from a half-hour charge – you will need the Quick Charge-enabled plug adapter to take advantage of this feature though.

The edge screen also comes in handy when you’re charging the Priv, displaying a slender battery meter showing the handset’s battery percentage.

This means you can sit the Priv on your desk or bedside table and see how much juice you’ve currently got without having to illuminate the full display, saving on power consumption.

Competition

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge / S6 Edge+

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

One of the closest competitors of the BlackBerry Priv is the Galaxy S6 Edge (and larger S6 Edge+), which in itself is good news for the Canadian firm – it’s been years since its handsets could be seriously considered worthy rivals to the Korean giant’s high-end offerings.

The Galaxy S6 Edge also has a luscious dual-curve QHD display, which looks simply fabulous, and Samsung has wrapped it in a beautiful metal and glass body. The overall effect is a handset which looks like it’s travelled back from the future – which, if you’ve seen the similar Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, it kind of has.

The Priv can’t match the S6 Edge in terms of premium look and feel, nor can it match the Samsung’s performance, which is consistently slick. Then consider that you can pick up the S6 Edge for less than the Priv SIM-free and it’s tricky to recommend BlackBerry’s latest smartphone over it.

One thing the S6 Edge doesn’t have, though, is a physical keyboard – and you don’t get that retro-cool slider mechanism either.

BlackBerry Passport

BlackBerry Passport

The Priv isn’t BlackBerry’s only smartphone – in fact there are two other top-level devices currently in the firm’s stable. And for those looking for a big screen, and a more traditional BlackBerry-esque experience, the oddly proportioned Passport could be up your street.

It’s the only square smartphone on the market, and for many it’s just too crazy – and the presence of the BlackBerry 10 OS keeps this phone out of the mainstream market.

Yet, those who love the BlackBerry keyboard do love the Passport, and the extra screen real estate is perfect for lengthy emails, packed calendars and some serious web browsing.

LG G4

LG G4

A very similar-size screen (5.5 inches vs 5.4 inches), the same screen resolution, the same power and the same operating system – the LG G4 and BlackBerry Priv have a number of similarities.

And both phones sport slightly unusual designs, with the G4 featuring a banana-esque curve and (if you opt for it) a leather back.

The LG G4 has witnessed one of the most impressive price drops among flagship devices since launch, and can now be picked up for the same price as some mid-tier handsets.

Battery life isn’t the greatest on the G4, and build – as with the Priv – leaves a little to be desired. It’s easier to accept these shortcomings in the G4 though, thanks to the lower price – as the Priv isn’t quite the same level of bargain despite its own price drop.

BlackBerry Classic

BlackBerry Classic

Is the Priv the perfect smartphone for loyal BlackBerry fans? Probably not. For those of you who live and die by the physical keyboard, the BlackBerry Classic is likely to be far more up your street.

As the name suggests, the Classic takes its cues from BlackBerry handsets of old, with the iconic design, keyboard layout and square screen all present to delight the BB faithful.

If you’re looking for a portable email machine the Classic is still the best option out there; but these days many of us want our smartphones to do a lot more than just email, and it’s in meeting these additional demands where the Classic falls down and the Priv steps up.

Verdict

The BlackBerry Priv is the mullet of the smartphone world – while it’s still business up front, there’s now a party going on round the back too.

Is that a combination people actually want though? It’ll divide opinion for sure, but there’s no questioning that the Priv is the best BlackBerry in years.

BlackBerry Priv review

We liked

The 5.4-inch QHD display on the Priv is excellent. Its subtle dual curved edges are attractive, detail is pin sharp and it enables you to actually enjoy videos and games on a BlackBerry device.

I’m also a big fan of stock Android, which BlackBerry has only altered in a couple of minor ways, while adding a smattering of its own applications. It’s clean, clutter-free and enjoyable to use.

The added security will be a big plus point for many, with the Priv able to show you how to improve the privacy of the handset – and that’s after BlackBerry has done additional work to secure both the hardware and software.

The Priv lacks the premium design to match its premium price tag, but even though the plastic is a bit creaky on the rear I’m quite taken with its stylings. It offers something a bit different – and I could play with that slider all day.

We disliked

While the Android Marshmallow update has improved things considerably, the Priv still isn’t what you’d call a speedy performer. It’s just a little too slow for a truly great on-screen experience, with noticeable lag in areas such as the camera app.

It doesn’t happen all the time, and for large parts of the review period the Priv ran smoothly – particularly once I’d moved it from Lollipop to Marshmallow. But there were still odd moments where performance wasn’t what I’d expect from a top-of-the-line phone.

The sliding mechanism is fun to play with, while rekindling fond memories of phones gone by, but the physical keyboard it hides feels outdated and clunky. The keys will be too small for many users, and the advances in touchscreen keyboards mean they’re now superior to BlackBerry’s dainty keys.

BlackBerry Priv review

Final verdict

Don’t get me wrong – I really, really like the BlackBerry Priv. It’s a great high-end Android phone, especially when you consider who’s made it.

Finally we have a BlackBerry smartphone with all the apps you want, with a screen you can actually enjoy videos and games on, and an interface that’s far more familiar and intuitive (for the general public at least) than that on the BlackBerry 10.

Trouble is, I wanted to love the Priv – and this is a phone that BlackBerry really needs people to love if the company’s ever going to get back into the consumer hardware market – but I just don’t.

The occasionally flaky (though improved) performance and absence of a properly premium design, coupled with a price tag that still makes it more expensive than its contemporaries as well as some top new upper-mid-range contenders, makes the BlackBerry Priv very difficult to recommend over its closest rivals.

It’s by far the best phone BlackBerry has produced in recent years – but once again I can’t help but feel that it’s just too little, too late.

First reviewed: November 2015



>> Source: TechRadar

Review: Updated: BlackBerry Priv