4 January 2016


Best of both worlds.

Although BlackBerry’s fortunes of late have been mixed, there is no denying the phone maker’s iconic style and practicality. But if you’ve always been put off from purchasing a BlackBerry due to the company’s non-Google, non-Apple operating system, prepare to have your head, and your phone-buying decisions, turned. We review the BlackBerry PRIV.

A strange name, isn’t it? Especially when spoken out-loud in broad Yorkshire accent, the PRIV is BlackBerry’s current flagship smartphone; one that comes with the reassuringly familiar Android OS on board. But before you cast this aside as yet another phone maker that has given in to Google’s all-powerful system, the PRIV has retained a lot of what made, and still makes, BlackBerry unique.

In a nutshell, the most striking thing about the BlackBerry PRIV is that it is a 5.4-inch touchscreen smartphone that also features a pop-out physical qwerty keyboard. You simply push up the screen and you’re presented with a very BlackBerry-looking keyboard, allowing you to type with the whole of the screen visible. Interestingly, the keyboard can also function like a laptop’s trackpad, as it is touch sensitive, responding to light swipes and cursor control movements. A little freaky at first, but once mastered it really is very useful.

That screen is also unique in that it features curved edges on both sides, making the whole phone a real pleasure to grip. The OLED screen is also dazzlingly clear and sharp, containing a resolution of 2560x1440 and having 540 pixels per inch. It’s like holding a miniature high-def TV screen in the palm of your hand.

In terms of the camera, the BlackBerry PRIV also outdoes much of the similarly priced competition. Behind the Schneider-Kreuznach lens you’ll find a 18MP sensor and a dual-flash system which captures vibrant photographs even in low light settings. Holding the PRIV to take photos is also a breeze, as the handset is just 9.4mm thin and weighs 192g. Oh, and the damn battery lasted nearly an entire 24 hours, even with moderate use!

On the inside Android is handled very well by the 64bit Hexacore CPU and 3GB of RAM. Blackberry thankfully haven’t fiddled with the OS too much, and everything looks just as you think it would. However, there are a few useful additions to the normal Android which we found pretty refreshing. BlackBerry Hub is an application which not only gathers together all your emails and text messages into one stream, but also calendar alerts and social media updates. A simple swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen launches the app in an instant.

Also notable, and the reason why the phone is called the PRIV (we assume) is BlackBerry’s built-in levels of user privacy. All the phone’s data, including emails, photos, and hardware access, is encrypted by BlackBerry’s DTEK system. As well as ensuring the info can be read only by your phone in any given situation, the app also lets you monitor what is accessing things like the camera, microphone, and GPS, and will display a status of how secure your phone currently is.

In use this is pretty incredible and great peace of mind. User privacy is of growing concern these days, especially as we all tend to just hit the ‘I agree’ button when downloading new apps and software. Regardless of if your phone contains top secret government files, or just a bunch of funny selfies of you and your mates, you know it’s all safe.

We’ve been both impressed and charmed by the BlackBerry PRIV… and we must admit that we thought we wouldn’t be. Taking Android onto their phones was a smart move by BlackBerry, but adding the improved security features and high-spec hardware was even smarter. The PRIV would be the ideal phone for both the hardworking business person and the teen messing about on Twitter. Check it out.

£559 (or around £40 per month on contract)

© The Test Pit

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