Let’s face it – although the launch of BlackBerry’s first Android device has been fairly quiet, it’s a big deal for the ailing Canadian smartphone maker.
The BlackBerry Priv is banking on the popularity of Google’s Android operating system and the phone’s nostalgic features, such as the slide out QWERTY keyboard, to be a success. But, if it’s a flop, it could very well be the last smartphone BlackBerry ever makes.
READ MORE: BlackBerry’s first Android device ‘BlackBerry Priv’ goes on sale
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Reviews of the Android device are varied – some love it, others hate it.
For example, Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff called the Priv “one of the best devices BlackBerry has ever built” in his review.
Meanwhile, Gizmodo reporter Mario Aguilar said he wouldn’t buy the phone for himself, his friends, or his worst enemy in a scathing review titled, “BlackBerry Priv Review: Nope, Not For Me—Not Even For My Worst Enemy.”
Here is what reviewers thought of the specifics of the phone:
QWERTY physical keyboard
Reviews of the Priv’s most nostalgic feature vary. Wall Street Journal reporter Joanna Stern loved the Priv’s old-school physical keyboard so much she argued the device stands up against competitors like Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy line thanks to its unique design.
“Typing on real keys with a phablet-sized 5.4-inch screen towering over them is odd at first, but once I found my acrobatic balance, my fingers were scurrying around at up to 60 words per minute. That’s about 20% faster than I type on my iPhone,” Stern wrote in her review.
However, Stern admitted the touch-screen keyboard is still more convenient and easy to use one-handed.
Globe and Mail reporter Shane Dingman added, “It even balances well in the hand so there’s really no letdown here for keyboard lovers, and the product designers I spoke with assured me they popped and retracted the keyboard about a million times in testing to make sure the mechanism doesn’t fail.”
Gizmodo’s Aguilar completely disagreed – labelling the QWERTY keyboard as “useless.”
“With the keyboard slide out, the device is too top heavy to really use the keyboard nimbly. The weight also hurts your ability to use the cool touchpad feature that lets you scroll through webpages with a swipe,” he wrote.
“The keyboard ends up being an afterthought because it’s so useless.”
However, nearly all of the reviews applauded BlackBerry for making the physical keyboard a capacitive touchscreen – meaning you can run your fingers over the keys to scroll or move a cursor on the screen.
Privacy is its name – but not its stand-out feature
Ironically, the BlackBerry Priv – which stands for Privacy and Privilege – has been called “a privacy flop.”
BlackBerry is hyping the phone as the most secure Android device on the market, thanks to privacy-focused software that helps users learn how their information is being accessed. For example, it shows you how many times services like Facebook access the device’s GPS co-ordinates, image files, microphone, or contacts.
“After spending a week with the Priv, I can tell you from the three most used apps on this phone: Facebook accessed my location a total of 194 times in seven days; Skype accessed my phone contacts list a total of 1,814 times in the past seven days; 老域名怎么购买 accessed my location 704 times in the past seven days,” read Zack Whittaker’s review for ZDNet.
“That’s not privacy. That’s just information, which I can’t do anything about. Think of it this way: the police turning up at your door saying you got burgled isn’t effective law enforcement. It’s stating a fact, and hoping you feel reassured by it.”
Aguilar echoed that while the feature will likely entice privacy-conscious users, it doesn’t actually do much for the user.
“The good news is that without doing anything, DTEK gave me an ‘EXCELLENT’ rating for security, owing to my use of common sense measures like a lockscreen pattern, and opting to encrypt my data,” he wrote.
“I navigated to some sites I know to be riddled with malware, and DTEK did not appear to do anything. Maybe that means it’s working?”
However – BlackBerry was praised for other areas of privacy. For example, Lynn Greiner pointed out the device’s focus on privacy is evident even from the set-up process.
“Startup takes quite a while, and partway through you’ll see the message ‘Encrypting device.’ You’re not asked, it just happens,” Greiner wrote in the Financial Post.
Its price is its biggest problem
The Priv comes with a hefty price tag of CAD$899 unlocked – pitting it against premium phones like Apple’s iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. But this appears to be the biggest disadvantage to the device.
“So let’s be serious for a minute. Nobody charges this much money for an Android phone, and price is Android’s major selling point against the Apple ‘premium’,” wrote Dingman.
“The fact that BlackBerry is trying to win back share with a mass-market device that costs significantly more than its established rivals strikes me as risky, and perhaps overly optimistic.”
Greiner added, “The BlackBerry Priv is not a bargain phone – BlackBerry is addressing the premium market – but it’s a solidly functional one, mixing the best of BlackBerry with the familiarity of Android. It’s completely manageable, and has done a nice job melding both ecosystems in a way that should please users of both platforms.”