Priv – the final ingredient in this BlackBerry crumble

Everyone knows the big four operating systems when it comes to smartphones: Android, Apple, BlackBerry and Windows. Recently, one of the fruits had decided to make an Android phone – and it wasn’t the one which could afford the mistake.

BlackBerry whiteBlackBerry has been one of the most well-known brands in the mobile phone industry ever since it came out as a business phone. Its original messaging platform, BBM, was one of its key features which brought it as far as it did. But with the dawn of the touchscreen age, and the development of apps like WhatsApp chipping away at BlackBerry’s ever-diminishing profit margin, it was only a matter of time before the company made a desperate attempt at keeping afloat. This one in particular, however, I can honestly say I never saw coming. And I don’t think that the outcome will be even close to one they were hoping for, so let’s review.

BlackBerry designed the Priv, short for both privacy and privilege, as an attempt to enter the market anew. This phone will run on an Android OS, albeit an older version, while still having several classic BlackBerry features. One example is the physical keyboard, which can be slid out from the back of the phone. As classy as the keyboard may look, the actual functionality in comparison to a purely touchscreen one is up for debate. But saying that, having had a purely touchscreen BlackBerry before, the on-screen keyboard was finicky on a good day, and downright useless on a bad day, and had me wishing for a physical keyboard, even knowing how tiny the keys were compared to my fingers. Although the keys have technically increased in size for the Priv, and you can activate an on-screen keyboard, the physical keyboard is tucked away under the screen for those who feel more comfortable with it, or for when writing something really long. Luckily, BlackBerry has become fairly good at making their slide-out screens blend in to the rest of the phone almost seamlessly.

Speaking of the phone’s appearance, It does look very elegant. And overall fairly similar to the Sony Experia, or even the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge at a push, both of which have been on the market for quite a while. This could be a functional design feature – these are well known, and fairly commonly used designs, so would be familiar to the target audience. The 5.4 inch screen has an amazing quality display, and is just the right size for what the phone is meant to do. And unlike previous BlackBerry designs, the volume buttons are separated by a mute button, which affects the speaker at the bottom of the phone. It’s apparently significantly more interactive and effective than the volume buttons on previous models, but that is one of the few new features which seems to actually work as promised.

The old issue BlackBerry had with overheating and freezing is still present; the processing power of the Priv may be better than its predecessors, but it still lands way below the bare minimum needed to keep the device running smoothly. The battery, promised to last “22.5 hours of mixed use”, is devoured by the processor alone, just trying to keep up with the day-to-day applications of the phone.
Playing a game will do one of two things – you could use up all of the battery in the short amount of time that you’re playing, or you could end up throwing the phone against the wall in frustration because the thing has frozen for the third time in as many minutes.

And of course, everyone has a camera built into their phone nowadays, especially if it’s a smartphone, so BlackBerry has made a pretty impressive leap by integrating an 18 megapixel camera, with stabilisation capabilities and a dual-LED flash. As amazing as that is, the phone itself can’t handle that, so it can take a second (literally) to finish snapping a simple picture. Bump it up to taking a picture in HD, and you’re looking at anywhere between four and ten seconds between hitting the shutter and the image being saved. So you can forget taking anything more than still-life and incredibly posed photos on the Priv.

But going back to where the name came from. Priv is short for the privacy and the privilege which apparently comes from owning one of these. As shown above, there is some theoretical privilege, in that some of the technology is better than that of competitors, even if the phone can’t quite keep up with all of it.
As for privacy, there are several new privacy features put in place, which should make the phone and use thereof more secure. Although it doesn’t run on the most current Android software, it does have the privacy settings from it, which gives the user feedback about threats, and informs about what each threat is doing, as well as allowing the user to view and adjust the accessibility the apps have to the user’s information.
All of this cumulates in the BlackBerry Hub. In theory, it’s a great idea. It keeps all of the user’s communication apps together, interlinking everything so that it’s all easy to access and to handle. It lets the user filter and adjust everything to maximise productivity and personalise the system. Which would absolutely be the biggest selling point for the Priv, if it worked properly. Unable to archive your emails, you end up with huge lists of emails that you may still need later, but can’t do anything with on your phone except delete the older emails. And considering how this is the biggest drain on the processing power, as it needs to work in the background, constantly downloading and filtering every text, Tweet, email, and all of the other notifications for communication and social media. And while you can switch off most of the BlackBerry settings and run the phone as an expensive Android device, things like the Hub would still run in the background, leaving the heavy drain of the processors in place.

Available only for pre-order currently, the £559 pricetag seems a little steep for the quality of phone you’d be getting, in my opinion, but if BlackBerry manages to iron out all of their issues before their UK release date of the 30th of November, I think they just might be able to scratch back a bit of their long-lost popularity.