When you think of Android phones, BlackBerry typically doesn’t come to mind. This is because up until very recently BlackBerry had nothing to do with Android as the company focused on their own unique operating system. However, now with the Priv, BlackBerry is finally admitting their impending demise as a smartphone manufacturer as the device runs virtually vanilla Android as opposed to the company’s own operating system. Is this enough to save the company though? Unfortunately, probably not.

Specs

  • 5.4” 1440 x 2560p AMOLED Display – Dual Curved Edges
  • Snapdragon 808 Processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB Storage – MicroSD
  • 18MP Rear Camera, f/2.2, OIS, Phase Detection Autofocus
  • 2MP Front Camera
  • 3410 mAh Battery
  • microUSB, Quick Charge 2.0, Wireless Charging
  • Physical Keyboard – Slide Out

Hardware

The BlackBerry Priv has seen mixed reactions in the physical appearance department, some say is looks stylish while others seem to despise it. Personally, I see the Priv as a very stylish and good looking device that I never felt ashamed of to pull out of my pocket. All you have to do is take a look at the back of the device to see what I mean. You’ll find a carbon-fiber pattern on a satisfying rubber back cover. At the top of the back of the device, right in the middle, you will see the camera bulge with a pretty prevalent silver circle surrounding it. Both of these things paired with the dual-edged display make for a formidable device in the style department.

Okay, so the Priv looks good, but does it feel good to hold? The short answer to that is yes. The rubbery back cover of the device contributes largely to that. It eliminates most of the concern most people have about dropping their smartphone when wielding it one-handed. I also found that it seems to have the perfect thickness to it, which made it a very satisfying device to handle. One problem I can foresee some people having is with the slide-out keyboard. If you happen to be holding the device with one hand and attempt to slide open the keyboard, it jumps open with a bit of force. This is of course completely necessary, but can cause the Priv to jump out of your hand if doing this one handed.

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Speaking of that physical keyboard, let’s take a moment to talk about it. First things first, I surprisingly really enjoyed using it. It was a nice and welcomed changed to using an on-screen keyboard that we have all become so accustomed to with our touchscreen devices. Being able to feel the keys and also feel them click in when I pressed them was a very satisfying experience. The only gripe I have about the keyboard is that I found the keys to be just a tad bit too small for my liking. You can call this nostalgia and I’m sure that it contributes to my love for the physical keyboard on the Priv, but at the end of the day it was always a nice to have the option.

Software

Like mentioned above, the Priv is the first BlackBerry device to come out of the box running Android. More specifically, the Priv comes running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop which isn’t the latest version of Android but it’s definitely a good version of Android. The best part of the software on the Priv in my opinion though is that it’s basically vanilla Android. There are some differences, however, the two biggest ones  are the addition of BlackBerry’s own BlackBerry Hub and a built-in theme manager that allows you to download and change app icons.

BlackBerry Hub is a key part of how BlackBerry has been managing notifications on their smartphones for years. It’s essentially the same on Android with the Priv. The idea behind BlackBerry Hub is to consolidate all of your notifications into one place for you to view and reply to, which on an Android phone is a tad bit redundant with there already being a notification center. Unfortunately, this along with the cluttered way that Hub organizes notifications makes it a frustrating experience overall. The idea is there, but the execution is off.

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Besides these couple of things and a few other small additions and differences, the software of the Priv is the same as you would get on a Nexus device. It’s fast and fluid with a little stutter from time to time, but not enough to really bother anybody. The simple and light manner of vanilla Android really make it easy to keep things fluid and clean.

Battery Life

With the Priv, battery life was never really an issue with a regular day of use. 90 percent of the time I could easily make it through a regular day without having to plug the Priv into a charger. However, as the case is with almost all Android phones, heavy usage can really take a substantial toll on the battery life. You may be saying “duh” to this statement, but what I mean is that battery life takes more of a hit than it should with heavy usage. This was especially noticeable when doing things like watching YouTube videos or using Google Maps to navigate around town. A little too much of this would cause the Priv to be asking for a charger by about three or four in the afternoon, something nobody wants to have to do.

That being said, the Priv should not give you any problems with everyday, regular use. I usually wake up at around 8am and go to bed around 11pm. On these days when I would put the Priv on the charger before I went to bed, the battery would be at around 20 to 30 percent. Needless to say, you should be fine.

Camera

Reading other reviews online I saw quite a bit of negativity when it came to the Priv’s camera quality. Well, I disagree with most of this negativity. During my use with the Priv I found it to be a very capable device in the camera department. It was able to capture adequate pictures with a good amount of detail most of the time, as you would expect from an 18MP sensor with OIS.

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Despite this, the camera on the Priv does not come without its fair share of issues. First off, low-light shots are probably not going to impress you by any means. They tend to be fairly noisy and lacking in correct colors. But the color issues don’t stop there with this camera. I found that color was an issue even with some shots taken outdoors on a perfectly sunny day. I would take a picture of something and then take another picture of it a second later and get completely different looking colors. Perhaps the worst part of the Priv camera is BlackBerry’s bold and claim that it can replace your DSLR, which obviously isn’t even remotely close to the truth.

Don’t get me wrong, like I said above, the Priv camera is a good smartphone camera. But when compared to the Samsung Galaxy S7 or iPhone 6S Plus, it starts to look bad.

Full Size Camera Samples

Final Thoughts

The BlackBerry Priv is a good Android smartphone, but that’s all it is, nothing more and nothing less. It’s got a good design, good battery life, and a good camera, but it sadly doesn’t excel in any of these departments. Sure, the addition of BlackBerry’s iconic physical keyboard does add a bit of appeal to the device, but not much. And as most of us know, BlackBerry is a dying smartphone company that is struggling to keep up with the likes of Samsung and Apple. The Priv was supposed to be the company’s last breath above the water before they potentially drowned and unfortunately, it wasn’t a deep enough breath.