This week we’ve swapped our reporter’s Sony Xperia Z5 for the head-turning PRIV® by BlackBerry™. This is what it’s like to spend a week with the first BlackBerry powered by Google.
In pictures PRIV doesn’t come across as a big phone - this isn’t true, and that’s not a bad thing. For starters, it’s fronted by an impressive 5.4-inch Quad HD display, which curves at the sides like the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge.
Adding to the handset’s already large size is its slide-out keyboard. You don’t have to use the physical QWERTY keyboard if you don’t want to - the on-screen one automatically appears when it’s not in use – but there are a few clever features to tempt you.
When it’s slid out it makes PRIV by far the biggest handset I’ve ever used – measuring 7.2-inches head to toe. Before using the phone, I thought this could make for a pretty uncomfortable experience, with the added height possibly causing the phone to topple over, but thanks to the precision build this isn’t a problem at all.
The Android experience
It’s a bit weird using a BlackBerry handset without all the usual BlackBerry make-up. In place of all that stuff is Google’s operating system, Android Lollipop, with a few choice BB features thrown in the mix including BlackBerry Hub, BlackBerry Meetings, BBM and DTEK security.
Because all the best bits of BlackBerry have been left in, however, I was wondering if PRIV would resonate with those who owned the likes of Bold and Curve back in the day. And, sure enough, one showed up right on queue...
“What’s this? It’s beautiful…” a friend inquired this weekend - picking up the PRIV from the table in front of me. Her curiosity wasn’t surprising, and she wasn’t the first to admire its unique design.
After explaining that PRIV was the wonder child of Google and BlackBerry, she was sold - which made me realise that no one ever really fell out of love with the BlackBerry brand. It’s just taken a while for its smartphone to blossom – kind of like an awkward teenager.
I’ve rarely had much time for gesture controls, except Motorola’s shake to launch the camera thing – which is pretty handy when you’re in a rush. But, PRIV’s have come in quite handy. The advanced interactions are built in and can be turned on and off through the general settings menu. This is what they do…
- Flip to mute: pretty much what it says on the tin. Say you’re in the middle of a stomach-turning I’m A Celebrity episode, and you get a phone call from an unknown number - flip to mute. PPI can wait.
- Flip to save power: a novelty but lazy function. If you can’t be bothered to click the power button (which is on the left, unlike most smartphones), you can flip the phone so it’s screen-down on the table, and it will lock.
- Hold to stay awake: handy when you’re reading. As long as you have PRIV cradled in your palm, the screen will stay awake and won’t nod off like grandpa post-Christmas dinner.
For the creative professional
I’m a young professional working in a creative environment. And as such, BlackBerry has never really been on my radar. That is, until now...
For a long time, it’s felt like BlackBerry has been synonymous with the suit-wearing businessperson (unlike myself). Maybe attached to a belt clip, or in the cup holder of an Audi A4. Those days are behind us now, because PRIV is built for the masses.
This is made especially clear by the awesome power of the 18MP camera. Why would you need to take high quality photos of your spreadsheets or the whitewash walls of the office boardroom? You wouldn’t, which says to me that BlackBerry is ready for the world - it’s no longer the secondary ‘work’ phone, it’s the phone.
The camera app itself takes great photos, can shoot 4K video footage, and offers a bunch of settings and filters to give your shots that extra creative edge. I never thought The Lowdown team would be comparing a BlackBerry smartphone to the likes of Sony or LG for photo quality, but astonishingly there isn’t much in it.
But that’s not all. My headphones have been on the fritz for a few weeks now, and as such I’ve had to resort to a set of desktop speakers I’ve had for years. PRIV, however, has made easy work of replacing them, with its stereo speakers.
The grill stretches across the bottom of the phone, under the slide-out keyboard, and provides surprisingly loud and clear audio that could rival HTC’s BoomSound.
PRIV: the game-changer
So, this is the end of my week. A week I was looking forward to, thoroughly enjoyed, and would happily live again. I would go as far to venture that BlackBerry, the Canadian underdog that’s struggled for years, may have just changed everything.
One day, will there be one operating system to rule them all? Is PRIV a tiny insight into the future? Only time will tell.
With an excellent camera, powerful speaker, high quality screen, and all the best bits of BlackBerry and Android merged into one, there really isn’t much to complain about. I might see if I can sweet talk The Lowdown into letting me keep it for another week. Wish me luck.
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