The BlackBerry Priv launches on AT&T’s network in the U.S. today, and just in time, the embargo from its reviews have been lifted as well. So, how good is the Priv? Will the handset be able to save BlackBerry or is the company doomed for good?
We roundup some of the reviews of the handset to see how good the phone really is.
The publication calls the Priv the “best-looking BlackBerry device ever.” It also praises the build quality of the handset and says that it can easily last two years of heavy usage. It notes that the AMOLED display is not accurate, but it is sufficiently bright and warm with plenty of contrast.
As for the keyboard — which is likely why many people will buy the Priv — Engadget says that it is decent, though people with fat fingers are going to take sometime to get used to it.
Instead, it’s a custom affair that, like the BlackBerry Passport, is also capable of recognizing simple gestures. Each key is tightly spaced and if, like me, you have fat fingers, it’ll take a while to get your eye in, but there’s a surprising amount of travel given its size. Like the Passport, if a word hits the autocomplete suggestion bar, a hard swipe up on the keyboard will add it to your message.
Like almost any other Android OEM, BlackBerry has also not left Android untouched on the Priv. The company has customised the OS to make it more secure, while also ditching some usual Android’s navigation system in favor of one that is reminiscent of BlackBerry OS 10.
As mentioned, the other big addition is Dtek, the company’s security suite that sits on top of Android and nannies you into making sure your device is difficult to hack and steal. When I was setting up the device, I skipped the option to add a security pin, and Dtek quickly started nagging me to change that situation. After a while, I gave in, and wanted to see if it could tell I was being deliberately lax by choosing 1234 as my code. Unfortunately, the app didn’t push back, and with the addition of that one code, my security level went from being “weak” to “excellent.”
The 18MP shooter on the BlackBerry Priv is surprisingly very capable, though it can be inconsistent. The publication also noted that the Priv’s 3410mAh battery is not sufficient for the phone to last a day, and its call quality is tinny and choked-off.
In the end, Engadget says that the handset is tough to be recommended to anyone, except for people who are die-hard keyboard lovers.
I guess the final test is to ask myself if I could, with a straight face, recommend this to my friends and loved ones. The only person who I know would like this is the one that scours eBay whenever his Motorola Pro+breaks, which it does, frequently. The fact that a company in 2015 is making a pretty decent Android smartphone with a keyboard deserves plenty of praise, because people do still crave them. I just can’t imagine anyone who has become inured to using an on-screen keyboard will consider dropping seven hundred big ones to go back to how it was.
The publication’s review of the Priv is fairly negative. It notes that the slight curve on the Quad HD 5.4-inch AMOLED display of the handset adds nothing to the experience, and instead just makes the text on the edges hard to read.
The site was also not impressed with the Priv’s keyboard with the device becoming top heavy when the keyboard is slide out.
So what about the Priv’s keyboard? It’s small, and the tiny keys are hard to press—it’s more the sensation of button mashing than elegantly typing. What’s more, with the keyboard slide out, the device is too top heavy to really use the keyboard nimbly. The weight also hurts your ability to use the cool touchpad feature that lets you scroll through webpages with a swipe. The keyboard ends up being an afterthought because it’s so useless.
Sadly, BlackBerry’s security app DTEK failed to impress the reviewer, and it does seem to be not-that-secure.
The good news is that without doing anything, DTEK gave me an “EXCELLENT” rating for security, owing to my use of common sense measures like a lockscreen pattern, and opting to encrypt my data. I navigated to some sites I know to be riddled with malware, and DTEK did not appear to do anything. Maybe that means it’s working?
In the end, Gizmodo’s reviewer says that the handset is not worth recommending even to their worst enemy.
I wouldn’t, for myself, my friends, or even my worst enemy. I suppose there is a kind of person who might want a flagship quality phone that has a keyboard, even if the keyboard isn’t totally useful. Some people might feel more comfortable with a dumbed down security app that’s not doing much.
In the end, it looks like the BlackBerry Priv is simply not worth the $699 that BlackBerry is asking for it. Until and unless you are really a die-hard keyboard lover, the Priv makes little sense for anyone.