I have to tell you that my hopes were quite high when BlackBerry first showed me their first foray into creating an Android device with BlackBerry DNA. I was skeptical based on our experiences with the first generation BB10 devices and yet I really want them to get it right. I have to say that I am overwhelmingly impressed with what they managed to do with this first iteration. There are just so many right decisions that they made without the usual trial and error we have become accustomed to. Essentially they have delivered to us a premium vanilla Android device with many of the core features we would expect from a BlackBerry. Think of it as a Google Nexus device with BlackBerry flavoring.
With so much new going on I decided to devote the first part of my review to the hardware. BlackBerry made some decisions here that are really impressive with them failing on only one front. i would have loved to see a Nexus Imprint like fingerprint technology on the Priv but it seems like BlackBerry is working on an advanced Biometric solution that is upcoming. Lets dive into the hardware. The first thing you experience when you put the Priv into your hand is how solid the device is and how good it feels in your hand. Its a bit heavier than some Android devices but in a good way. The surprising part is that you barely even notice that it is a slider. The device is so thin that you could easily mistake it for a candybar phone. On the front you are finding the screen dominates the phone with a little sliver on the bottom for you to slide up the keyboard. I really wish that they had a way to slide it up from the sides easily but it works like my old Torch. The front of the device has a beautiful bezeled screen and the keyboard that slides out feels pretty solid but not as great as the Q10 due to the key pitch. The keys are really easy to press and as an added bonus they act as a touchpad like the Passport keyboard!!! The back of the phone has the same carbon fiber style backing with a soft touch feel for grip. They also have a dominating camera with a beautiful lens that takes great pictures in my tests. They also added dual LED flash that are in two hues so it gets both daylight and yellow light so photos look more natural.
Just look at how slick of a sliding mechanism they added on the Priv. From what they were telling us the reliability of that mechanism is rated to 200,000 opens and closes which is insane but they have labs that are going way way past that. The sides of the phone still have a nice grip and allow you to slide open the phone without it getting stuck in your hand. The button placement is confusing for those coming from Android devices since the power button is on the left instead of the top right. Still it is all about consistency with BlackBerry DNA
The screen is nice and bright and does not smudge easily. Supposedly we have Gorrilla Glass v4 so we should be protected as well as we can. The screens does have hard edges so I do not think I will be able to drop this as often as I do my Q10.
The keyboard slides out very easily and as I mentioned before it allows for swiping on top of the keys.
The top of the device has a MicroSD slot along with a SIM tray together with a noise cancelling microphone. Thankfully BlackBerry put the charging port on the bottom of the phone as a MicroUSB slot instead of the newer and harder to find USB Type C. They added in Quickcharge 2.0 so it works with certified chargers. The bottom contains the headphone jack along with the main microphone.
Overall phone quality is very high and as I mentioned before this phone screams high end. BlackBerry really aimed for the top of the market with this device and in the last week of using it side by side with a Nexus 5x I have to say that the BlackBerry Priv has won my heart by keeping the native Android experience and only adding key improvements. For example, they have added the BB10 double tap to unlock and a swipe from the bottom to open the hub and from the left to get a quick view of the hub view.
Battery life for the week I used it was excellent. I did not charge it all day and I was easily ending up with 20-35% at the end of the day of hard use. Phone call quality was also solid especially when I used Google Hangouts. I think BlackBerry has really delivered a premium Android experience and has enhanced it with BlackBerry usability. If BlackBerry keeps on refining this concept I think they have a strong case in the market. Especially if they keep on remembering all of the small features like keyboard hotkeys and shortcuts that they already implemented in the Priv!!!
Stay tuned for the initial deep dive into the BlackBerry Priv software and let me know if you have any questions!