I’ve now carried the BlackBerry PRIV for a month and while, as with all new devices, there are things that could be done better I’m madly in love with this new phone but not for the reasons I thought I would be. What was really interesting is that I thought the keyboard would be the killer feature but I didn’t anticipate how much I’d changed since I last carried a BlackBerry and how much retraining I’d need to get back to where I’d been a decade ago.
Let’s talk about the BlackBerry PRIV this week.
With any brand new device there are going to be issues and I think most of mine have to do with the chipset that BlackBerry had to use. The timing of this phone had them use the Snapdragon 808 chipset which is a decent platform but doesn’t have a number of the enhancements the upcoming 820 chipset will have. So the phone sometimes feels slow, likely because the needed additional security that defines it pulls some performance and it also runs hot—both of which will be addressed with the newer chipset.
The big missing feature, particularly for a phone that differentiates on security, is some form of biometric access management (which should also be coming). Finally, there are redundant Google and BlackBerry messaging apps, but this last problem is an easy fix. You just pick one and don’t log into the other, otherwise all of your calendar and messaging notices are doubled, which is annoying. But just a note that suggests you don’t do that would fix this.
So while this is a decent first effort I expect the next version to be amazing.
Why I Love The PRIV
This is a BlackBerry with apps. For every other recent BlackBerry, the big problem was it just didn’t run the apps I needed to run. Now I have access to the entire Android ecosystem and I have the BlackBerry features I was missing. For Android in particular what was missing was decent security. I was constantly worried that the Android product I had was compromised because it was so incredibly vulnerable. I don’t have those concerns with the PRIV. Now, I’ll grant you this is as much about mindset and my trust for BlackBerry, but it is also because I’ve looked at the solution and it has an app that tests security that gives me peace of mind.
Now, here was the interesting thing about the keyboard. After around a decade of not using one regularly I found I didn’t use the mechanical keyboard at first, I fell back to using and silently cursing the screen keyboard. After forcing myself to use the keyboard again: Holy crap! My typing speed and—more importantly—my typical accuracy, significantly increased. Subjectively, I’m typing about 3x faster on the mechanical keyboard and I rarely miss-key, but on a screen keyboard I typically miss-key almost once per line. Why the hell we ever gave up mechanical keyboards is beyond me. This is one of those cases where the really stupid technology won.
The final thing is the smaller size. Don’t get me wrong, I initially had issues with moving from a monster phone down to one that is smaller but carrying that big phone was kind of a pain in that it tended to get caught on things (particularly airline seatbelts for some reason) and folks made fun of the size of my phone. Now I may eventually go back to a larger screen but it is actually kind of nice to not have this annoyance now.
Like all first attempts the PRIV isn’t perfect but it is far better than most and it has been, and continues to be my favorite phone. If someone had asked me a few months ago if I’d ever thought a BlackBerry would be my favorite phone I would have said it was impossible, but this month it is and it clearly wasn’t. Of course part of this for me is also because not only does this phone run all the apps but it is pretty unique and everyone and their brother doesn’t have one. It is admittedly kind of fun to pop the keyboard and have folks get a WTF look on their faces. It reminds me a lot of using an iPod and an iPhone in the early years back when people said “Wow!” and didn’t yawn because everyone they knew had one too.
So, part of the reason I love this phone is I have one and you don’t. It turns out that I’m really not a “one size fits all” type of guy.