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BlackBerry’s failure to keep up with the changing times resulted in a dramatic shift in fortunes for the once extremely popular smartphone manufacturer. The company has struggled to make an impact over the past few years in a market that it used to dominate, but BlackBerry is hoping to steady the ship with their first Android smartphone, a device that does a great job in combining BlackBerry’s signature features with current market trends.

Josh has already covered the finer details of the BlackBerry Priv in a comprehensive review, but I would like to share my own thoughts on this device in this “second opinion” look at the BlackBerry Priv!

Design

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Starting with the design, the BlackBerry Priv is a portrait-slider phone, which is a form factor that we haven’t seen in a long time, and BlackBerry’s decision to bring it back is definitely interesting. With a thickness of just over 9 mm, it’s not as thick as you would expecte a device with this form factor to be, and combined with the 5.4-inch display size, the Priv is quite manageable in one hand.

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Also helping the handling experience a lot is the back cover, made from a soft plastic weave with a carbon fiber look to it, which is one of the most grip-y materials I’ve come across recently on a smartphone. Holding the device almost makes it feel like having a suction cup stuck to your hands, which also means the BlackBerry Priv can certainly go without a case, since there is likely little risk of it slipping out of your hand.

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The fact that the BlackBerry Priv features a portrait-slider form factor is sure to evoke a sense of nostalgia, and it certainly helps that it works really well. It comes with a spring-loaded mechanism that makes it very easy to slide up and down, and by sliding it about half way, it will spring into place. Pushing the slider is also easy, with it protruding just a little bit above the bottom chin, and there is also a metal rail that gives you a point of contact to slide this portion up or back in place.

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Moving the slider upwards reveals the physical QWERTY keyboard, which is something that BlackBerry has been known for, for a very long time. However, any BlackBerry enthusiasts may not be particularly satisfied with this keyboard, because it is quite cramped, which makes it really hard to type on. I don’t have big hands, and even then, typing on this keyboard wasn’t the easiest experience, and the travel on the keys is also a touch shallow.

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The nice thing about the keyboard is that it also doubles as a track pad, so you can actually use to scroll through a web page or your social media feeds, and also swipe between home screens. The keyboard can also be used to auto-complete words by swiping up, or delete whole words, by swiping to the left. However, I did notice that the scrolling is very inconsistent, with it switching between being inverted or not, quite randomly. While the functionality available with the keyboard is great, I do wish that the overall typing experience was a little better.

Display

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The BlackBerry Priv comes with a 5.4-inch AMOLED display, with a Quad HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 540 ppi. As you would expect from any AMOLED screen, you get the inky deep blacks, vibrant colors, and high contrast ratios, and the high resolution makes it great for reading text, browsing the web, watching videos, and playing games. It may not be the best AMOLED screen around, with OEMs like Samsung doing a better job with leveraging this technology, but overall, the display of the Priv is really good as well, and I’ve had no issues with it at all.

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One thing you will notice with the display is that it is curved along the edges, but it isn’t as drastic as what is seen with a device like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, and doesn’t offer any additional functionality either, with the majority of the curved glass covering the bezel.

Performance and hardware

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Under the hood, the BlackBerry Priv comes with an hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, clocked at 1.8 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 418 GPU and 3 GB of RAM. As far as day to day to performance is concerned, the device does handle general tasks very well, with everything going smoothly, including opening apps, mutli-tasking, and gaming.

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That said, while I haven’t faced any issues with day to day performance, the buggy software package is what proves to be a let down. There have been reports of some users having a very buggy experience with the Priv, while there have been others for whom everything has been flawless, but I unfortunately fall in the former camp. Most of the bugs are minor, but there are a few that can get annoying. For example, when I am typing on the physical keyboard and then want to switch to the software keyboard, the latter doesn’t show up. To get it to work, I actually have to exit the application and open it again to get the software keyboard to pop up. Another issue I’ve had is while making phone calls. After hitting the dial button, the screen turns off, and even pressing the power button doesn’t help.

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However, the biggest problem I’ve had with the Priv is that it overheats when playing games or watching videos. Of course, all devices tend to get warm when performing any strenuous tasks, but the Priv actually got hot enough to the point where I had to put the phone down and let it cool off for a while.

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In my experience, the battery life possible with the large 3,410 mAh unit of the BlackBerry Priv has been just average. It is possible to get through a full day, but required being somewhat miserly with my usage. If I did play games or watch a lot of YouTube videos however, I would typically find myself having to recharge the device half way through the day.

lg g4 vs iphone 6s vs galaxy note 5 vs xperia z5See also: Blind Camera Shootout – the winner is…421

Camera

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The BlackBerry Priv comes with an 18 MP primary camera with optical image stabilization and optics made by a reputable European company, Schneider-Kreuznach. This is actually a pretty decent camera, and is capable of taking some great shots in good lighting situations, with good colors, sharpness, and a good amount of detail. Image quality deteriorates significantly in low light conditions however, with a a lot of noise to be seen in the shot. The front-facing 2 MP camera isn’t the most impressive either given its low resolution, but it is serviceable enough to take a decent looking selfie.

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The camera application is very easy to use, for the most part, and the availability of an exposure slider along the bottom of the view finder is a useful addition. That said, the actual act of taking a photo is really slow, and sometimes it takes a few seconds before a shot is taken. This is certainly unacceptable for a flagship smartphone in 2015, but hopefully, that is another issue that can be resolved in a future software update.

Software

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On the software side of things, the big story here is the fact that the Priv is the first smartphone from BlackBerry to run Android. What you get is a mostly stock build of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, so you aren’t going to find a whole lot of customization here from BlackBerry. The user interface is mostly familiar, with the only noticeable changes being the grid layout seen in the Recent Apps screen, and the three dots under the icons on the homescreen, that mean that if you swipe up from it, a pop up widget will appear, which is a great way of saving space on the actual homescreens.

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Extra features available include BlackBerry Messenger and DTEK, with the latter being a security application that can do anything from setting a screen lock, to encrypting the entire device. The app will also show all that the applications are doing and what they are accessing, and even comes with event logging. Security is something that BlackBerry has been known for in the past, and it is great that you are still getting that here with the Priv.

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Another fun feature that is built-in is the ability to use third party icon packs from the Google Play Store to customize the look of the default launcher. This is something that you can normally do only with another third party launcher, and having it available here is a nice touch.

Specifications

Display5.4-inch AMOLED display
Quad HD resolution, 540 ppi
Processor1.8 GHz hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
Adreno 418 GPU
RAM3 GB
Storage32 GB
expandable via microSD up to 200 GB
Camera18 MP rear camera with OIS, dual LED flash
Schneider-Kreuznach optics
2 MP front-facing camera
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
A-GPS
Bluetooth 4.1
NFC
microUSB 2.0
Battery3,410 mAh
SoftwareAndroid 5.1.1 Lollipop
Dimensions147 x 77.2 x 9.4 mm
192 grams

Gallery

Final thoughts

So there you have it for this second look at the BlackBerry Priv! Overall, I think that the BlackBerry Priv is a solid smartphone that does a good job of bringing together the best features of BlackBerry with the Android OS.

Read next:

Most of the issues that this device faces can be fixed with software updates, and ultimately, the Priv is a great first attempt by BlackBerry, and will certainly have fans excited about what the company may have in store in the future.

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  • Beau

    can you please review on elephone vowney 3GB model?
    it has Helio X10 and 4k video with other pack of high end features but only cost jst under US$300
    I think, not only me, but many of us would like to know. what’s good or bad about this phone.
    I search for youtube, they only have review video from china (probably from one studio)
    Now, it’s launched 2wks ago. I’d like to know what I’m gonna buy :)

    • Karly Johnston

      You shouldn’t pay more than $200 for any X10 phone.

  • Brian Ward

    Sounds like the same Blackberry that burned me before… Lots of bugs… Oh well.

    • Lardar

      Bugs? The start call *bug* where the screen goes off, also appears on my wife’s s6 edge, running 5.1.1 as well. sounds like a software bugs with some lollipop devices.

      • Steve Brain

        Trying to justify a bug that exists on the Priv because it exists on a Touchwiz device as well is only going to end poorly for you my friend.

        • Lardar

          Not justifying anything, it should be noted this bug appears on multiple android devices. And not a con spoke of in a way that it only appears on this phone.

  • Mark

    Got the new Blackberry Priv on Thursday and I can say after a full weekend of use and dealing with work issues from home it is the best Android phone I have used to date.

    Previous Phones – S4, Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Note 3, S5 and now the Priv

    Highlights
    1. Stock Android is clean and fast.. no lag yet
    2. Keyboard is amazing (Typing without to much tought on finger placement) (I am not as fast as I used to be but is more enjoyable and I am more confident when I am typing.. less errors)
    & the scrolling on the keyboard is smooth and you never have to worry about accidentally clicking on a link
    3. Backberry Hub.. I use is for a couple work email accounts and it is by far the cleanest and most efficient and informative way I have seen yet to deal with emails. (I am a first time Hub user)
    4. Great build and feels safe to hold in the hand without a case..

    **Also waiting on confirmation about the antenna BB used but if it is the Paratek Antenna they have used in there Z30 and Passports. I will be looking forward to worry free reception during beach and camping season.

    • Degus Jacoby Pradana

      Nice try

      • IqaluitZen

        Haters will hate.

    • Steve Brain

      When you’ve only used Touchwiz and previous generation Nexus devices it makes a hell of a lot of sense that the “Priv” would be the best out of the ones you’ve used to be honest. Certainly doesn’t mean it’s the best device out there, and I would actually be interested in getting your opinion after you’ve used a range of other flagship phones to compare.

      • Mike Henken

        He tried the S series, Note and Nexus series.. Those are some of the top phones in the industry…

        • Steve Brain

          The Nexus device he used is previous generation with an underwhelming camera and purely stock android. The Samsung devices are very much held back by the fact they use Touchwiz. Not to mention they’re last generation Touchwiz, so they’re even less optimized and more bloated than the current ones. As I said to HIM, and as I will reiterate to YOU, I would be keen on getting his opinion after he’s used various other flagship CURRENT GENERATION flagship phones.

          • Mark

            A little heads up, those were all phone I personally used. I have had some good time time trying out the LG g4 & G3, Moto x 2014 and HTC M8. All good but not the full package for me.

            Im very interested in what you think I am missing on the Priv that the other flagships have?

            I can honestly say the one thing I miss was on the Samsung and LG was there calendar widget. It would give you actual bits of information in a full month layout.

            Side note- a amazing camera has never been a real sales point on any phone I have ever bought.

    • C

      Poster profile (https://disqus.com/by/disqus_JGalyfW2fN/) shows this ID posted exactly the same comment on four different sites. #astroturf

    • Mark

      A little heads up, those were all phone I personally used. I have had some good time time trying out the LG g4 & G3, Moto x 2014 and HTC M8. All good but not the full package for me.

      Im very interested in what you think I am missing on the Priv that the other flagships have?

      I can honestly say the one thing I miss was on the Samsung and LG was there calendar widget. It would give you actual bits of information in a full month layout.

      Side note- a amazing camera has never been a real sales point on any phone I have ever bought.

  • Max Fireman

    Unrootable, uninteresting.

    • Steve Brain

      Yep.

  • 4ron

    Good, fair review. I know that BlackBerry is continuously issuing updates to resolve issues. One has to remember that this is their first foray into Android. I am really enjoying my Priv. It has some of the best BlackBerry features overlayed on Android. As the reviewer says this phone is just the beginning if BlackBerry has the staying power.

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  • Terry Voros

    It’s pretty lame I’ve checked it out and Definitely not a phone I’d buy…EEVEEEER

  • Lardar

    The side of the screen does have a function, Productivity Tab, does the same thing the s6 edge does. And every messaging app I use, when I open the slider the touchscreen keyboard goes away and the instant I slide it closed, the software keyboard comes back on. Overall besides what I mentioned , a good review.

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  • Dusan

    I was interested but… bad timing. No way I’m paying premium price for 1½ year old tech that is about to be replaced in a few months.

    • acchaladka

      Replaced in a few months? Please elaborate. I was going to wait until the price drops a notch and the bugs this reviewer is complaining about are worked out. I was thinking that post-christmas this will look like a suddenly very-good-to-great value.

      • Dusan

        Several new SoC with better tech is just around the corner. Phones with for example SD920 will be released in Q1 2016.

        • onstrike112

          How does the 808 count as dated? I don’t understand how people like you think that when a lot of people use Mediatek chips and Snapdragon 600 series chips. My Passport Silver Edition’s is an 801, and really, that’s enough for anything I do. So, what’s your deal?

          • Dusan

            It IS dated. It might be able to run everything you throw at it, but performance on a SoC is not everything, there’s a bunch of other tech like newer fast charging, battery optimization, etc that actually makes it outdated.
            Performancewise it’s fine, I’m running a 801 phone and it’s working great, so 808 is an upgrade, but I don’t see why I should buy a phone with fast charging 2 when there will be fast charging 3 in few months. Amongst other upgrades.
            And I’m not the type who buys mid spec phones.

          • onstrike112

            What’s the point on waiting for something better when there is always going to be something better if you wait every time? It’s kind of something you’ll always be waiting on.. plus, I don’t see the point of getting the best phone ever made, as it’s just going to a, be replaced in three to six months anyways, and b, be not worth the astronomical price tag anymore in 3 months.

          • Dusan

            Because SP820 and the likes won’t be replaced for at least a year. And when it’s just around the corner, why should I not wait for it?
            You’re entitled to your own opinion and the decision not to wait, just as I’m entitled to my own decision to wait. There’s no point in arguing over this.

          • onstrike112

            Agreed. I just, personally see no reason to buy such a high end soc device, where a less powerful one, that does all that I want it to, will do. Plus the Priv has that keyboard.

        • canalac

          Or you can wait Q1 2025 I am sure you will have an incredible experience.
          The point is that a lot of Android manufacturer force you to change phone (with new specs of course) just to correct their buggy Android software. Here BlackBerry proposes a solid phone with decent specs and monthly updates.

  • C

    “Most of the issues that this device faces can be fixed with software updates”

    Which ones exactly? The getting hot when you play games? The battery dying halfway through the day? The incredible multi-second camera lag which you think can “hopefully” be fixed? What’s the basis for your hope exactly? Can you point us to examples in the past where similar problems have been fixed by software updates?

    And what does “while I haven’t faced any issues with day to day performance, the buggy software package is what proves to be a let down” mean? Are the getting hot/camera lag/battery death problems not something that happen each day?? You don’t take pictures, play games, watch videos/use the phone for more than a few emails each day? Think about what you’re writing because this ridiculous fence-sitting is just painful to read.

  • canalac

    And 1st monthly update is rolling out. We need the a 3rd impression in order to confirm that BlackBerry is really listening the user feedback.

  • Eric D.

    That’s a VERY OLD REVIEW. All bugs have been resolved since. I own one and I’m very satisfied.