I’ve been using the new BlackBerry PRIV for about a day now and I am incredibly impressed with this little phone. There are a lot of things that could have gone wrong blending BlackBerry and Android components but mostly that didn’t happen. The worst is there are some redundancies with core BlackBerry and Android apps, but they don’t fight each other and you are free to use one or both to your heart’s content.
Let’s talk about my impressions (I’m actually listening to music from Slacker’s James Bond channel which somehow seems appropriate on the PRIV as I write this).
The BlackBerry Priv
I’ve been living off of one of the monster 6-inch phones for most of the last year and even though this phone as a 5.4-inch AMOLED display it feels tiny to me which is kind of nice It fits nicely in my hand and given it has a slide down keyboard it is still surprisingly thin. AMOLED has impressive blacks and the colors really pop making me wonder why all top end phones don’t use this technology. This is also one of the new dual curved screens which means it truly looks stunning.
Setting it up was pretty straight forward but I have a number of Android tablets and I’ve been using BlackBerry phones on and off for over a decade. If you are new to Android or new to BlackBerry the learning curve isn’t very steep, but having already set up both types of phones had me rolling nicely through setting up the device.
One of the interesting aspects of this phone is it supposedly supports T-Mobile’s Band 12 LTE which is supposed to provide more coverage. I’m still on AT&T with this phone and it seems to work fine but having a choice and having the ability to use one of the latest technologies out there is a clear plus.
The camera is pretty impressive in that it is 18MP and it features Schneider-Kreuznach optics along with a nice twin LED flash. Unlike many phones, this has one of the new SD card slots that will support up to 2TB once these SD cards become available, that is likely more storage than your PC has. You’ll need the storage because this is one of the phones, thanks to the Qualcomm 808 chipset, that will record in 4K and in High Dynamic Range. The front facing camera is a 2MP unit but it also has image and video stabilization and wide selfie mode for the narcissist in all of us.
Of course the distinctive and unique feature is the physical keyboard. Sadly I’ve lost my skill of blind typing on a physical keyboard but I’ll bet I can pick it up again in a week or so. Using it really makes me question our intelligence because it is so much better than a screen keyboard. In addition, you can pop up a screen keyboard on top of it giving you an unprecedented number of choices, and it increases your—or mine anyway—typing speed significantly.
The phone has a large fast-charging battery, though it doesn’t seem to support inductive charging. I’ve gotten a bit hooked on inductive charging and I’m going to miss it, but as a feature I don’t think it will be critical for most until we move to resonance charging which allows some distance between the charger and the phone (It often takes me up to 5 times to position an inductive charging phone properly and I have to admit that part has gotten a little old).
This has full Android support and all my Android apps, including my favorite games, were automatically downloaded—though I did have to log in to each one the first time to properly connect. I wonder when a new phone from any vendor will fully set itself up once I log into it?
Wrapping Up: Impressive Phone
I’m really impressed with the phone. With the exception of inductive charging—which is a mixed blessing—and a slightly smaller screen, there are no obvious tradeoffs with this phone. It has the apps and the physical keyboard, a great camera, a powerful fast-charging battery, and oh that display is to die for. It kind of makes me wonder how BlackBerry will top it next year but, overall, this is an impressive effort for a first Android phone. Then again, given BlackBerry has been making phones longer than both Apple and Google maybe this shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Let’s revisit this in a few weeks and see if I love this phone as much on day 15 as I do on hour 5. I think I will, but we’ll see.