The Blackberry Priv: Can This Super-Secure Smartphone Make Blackberry Ltd Relevant Again?
It wasn’t too long ago when Research in Motion Limited (RIM) was at the pinnacle of the mobile phone market. The company’s Blackberry Curve, Torch, and Bold series of super-secure smartphones were the go-to devices for executives (Google’s Eric Schmidt and US President Barack Obama are notable examples) who were concerned with the confidentiality of their electronic messages/emails. Unfortunately, the company’s stay at the top was cut short due to the influx of iOS and Android smartphones that featured touch-screens and had wider target demographics. Like the company’s name change, the release of the Z10 and Z30 (both featured touchscreens and the BB OS10) flagship phones in 2013 were ineffective at raising the company’s then dwindling stock.
Android on your Blackberry?
Fast-forward to 2015 and Blackberry is taking another crack at relevance again, only this time with the Blackberry Priv. This new flagship from the company is quite special since it’s essentially the first Blackberry smartphone that does not ship with any iteration of the venerable BB OS. Yes, you read that right. For its latest and greatest, the folks over at Blackberry decided instead to jump on the Android bandwagon. Will this union be enough to convince consumers to buy the Priv though?
Specifications and Special Features
If we’re basing the answer to this question on the device’s specs, then there’s a possibility that consumers are going to love what the Priv has to offer.
The Priv features a unique slider design that integrates Blackberry’s physical keyboard to a 5.4 inch AMOLED dual-curved screen display (taking inspiration from the S6 Edge?). Unlike with its previous flagships, the AMOLED display on this device has had its resolution bumped up to an impressive 2560×1440 pixels. This effectively places the Priv’s display on the same tier as LG’s G4 and Samsung’s S6 series.
Lighting up the display on Blackberry Priv is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808, a hexa-core SoC clocked at 1.8GHz. The device also has 3GB of RAM, a microSD slot, and 32GB of internal storage. Considering it has a power-hungry 64-bit processor and a Quad HD display, Blackberry made the wise decision of powering its flagship with a beefy 3410 mAh Li-ion battery.
For the Priv’s cameras, the company opted to use 18 MP Schneider-Kreuznach optics that can record 4K Ultra HD video at 30 fps for the rear camera and an undisclosed 5 MP camera that can record 720p video out front. Schneider-Kreuznach is known for making high quality and durable lenses so it’ll be great to compare how this device’s picture and video quality compares to that of the iPhone 6S Plus or even with the lesser priced Nexus 6P.
Other than running on Android 5.1.1, the Blackberry Priv will also be able to run custom Blackberry apps that can be downloaded through the Google Play Store. It should be noted though that this device won’t be running stock Android and will feature a custom skin that the company promises won’t be as heavily customized as TouchWiz, Sense UI, or the LG UX.
Perhaps the most intriguing software features of the Priv are DTEK and Productivity Edge. DTEK is an app that is designed to give out system warnings when other apps (or possibly malicious software) attempt to intrude on your privacy. Aside from this new feature, Blackberry also introduced a manufacturing process that locks down the device’s hardware with the use of cryptographic keys. This means that even if it’s running on the Android OS, it’ll be hard (or close to impossible) to crack into the device’s software using hardware-based exploits.
The Priv’s Productivity Edge gives its curved display functionality that is somewhat similar to the S6 Edge or Edge Plus’ curved displays. Not only will it allow you to check on messages, events on your calendar, and other notifications, it also has a charging bar function. Although this feature might seem gimmicky but remember that the S6 Edge still sold pretty well despite having something similar.
Was Going Android the Right Choice?
Honestly, Blackberry would have prevented its dropping out of the smartphone race if only it opted to adopt Android instead of focusing on BB OS 10. Right now, the Blackberry Priv has to contend with Chinese companies like Xiaomi, OnePlus, and Huawei that are all offering smartphones with decent to excellent specs at very affordable prices. Of course, Blackberry still has its name and reputation for providing super-secure smart devices going for it but these could only take it so far. It remains to be seen how people will react to that familiar-looking keyboard on the Priv. If we’re just going by its current specifications and special features though, there’s no doubt that Blackberry’s latest flagship is a force to be reckoned with. As a matter of fact, it’s entirely possible that the Priv could give Samsung, Apple, and LG’s flagship devices a run for their money.