BlackBerry PRIV: Best of both worlds

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BlackBerry is back in a way no one ever suspected or imagined. The company that defined the early ideals of smartphones now allies itself with Google’s Android OS in their latest and arguably greatest creation, the PRIV.

The PRIV, which takes its name from privacy and privilege, is much more than a rehash of the old BlackBerry Torch’s slider and touchscreen ethos. It is an all-in attempt to jump the line and land itself at the top of the Android flagship heap. It also showcases BlackBerry as a world-class hardware maker with one of the most diverse lines of devices encompassing QWERTY-enabled phones, touchscreen phones, and innovative products like the Passport. The press renders and product photos really do the BlackBerry PRIV a disservice because they make it look a lot larger than it really is. This device is thinner than the HTC M9 yet features a full QWERTY keyboard, which slides out with a reassuring mechanical click. BlackBerry PRIV (4) The keyboard has its own tricks, including predictive text functionality and capacitive control, turning it into a trackpad for scrolling or for getting into specific areas or lines of text. Keys are soft but responsive for thumb-typing, and all the popular BB shortcuts are still accessible. BlackBerry PRIV (2) You can enjoy the PRIV even without ever sliding down the keyboard. It integrates BlackBerry’s equally accurate (and ever-learning) software keyboard where predicted words float on the screen and you simply swipe them up to type them in. The curved glass display differentiates the PRIV from the gaggle of Android flagships, while the grippy carbon-weave back gives it a functional and purposeful character. BlackBerry PRIV (3) BlackBerry spared no expense in terms of materials and build. While some will balk at the device’s premium price, you only need to spend some time with the PRIV to realize that this is a premium smartphone through and through. As BlackBerry’s first device running Android (yes, more are coming), the PRIV could have been a bloated abomination of two operating systems struggling to take command of the experience. BlackBerry has done a remarkable job at letting Android be Android, while creating a safety net around the user experience.

Review by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla First published in Speed January 2016