Australian review: Blackberry Priv – Android smartphone with keyboard

too little too late? or comeback time?

Ahh Blackberry. For many years my love for the product, the brand, the service – all unquestioned. It took the iPhone 3GS to steal me away and even then I still dabbled. But the direction just seemed misguided and as the world embraced iOS and Android Blackberry kept running their own race.  That is until now. But is it too little too late?

Look, I don’t want to say “I told you so” – but – I told you so. That was June 2011, four and a half long years later and Blackberry has an Android Smartphone with the famous Blackberry keyboard. The Blackberry Priv.

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For those that left Blackberry for Android – this device may just lure you back.

The Priv’s screen slides up to expose the flat straight keyboard found on recent Blackberry devices like the Passport – sadly it seems the curved keyboard that made Blackberry what it was has long gone.  But its still a physical keyboard!

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Without sliding out the keyboard this is an Android phone made by Blackberry.  No big deal right?  Wrong. They’ve still got their security features as well as the Blackberry Hub which has been on a few Blackberry’s now and is quite frankly the best combined “inbox” of any smartphone.  I’m seeing mails from all accounts, notifications from Facebook and Twitter and your call log.

Sounds overwhelming and it can be, but pair it back, customise and embrace it and you’ve got one hell of an self-organisational tool.

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And for those who’ve tried out tools like “Mailbox” you’ll love the ability to snooze events like mail or missed calls.

You can even snooze those events to remind you when you’re in certain locations.  That might be “the car”, “home” or “the office” – based on the WiFi networks and Bluetooth devices you connect to.  Very cool.

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The keyboard features touch sensitivity as per the Passport meaning you can use it as a touchpad for scrolling through pages, swiping to delete words and much more.

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Boasting an 18 megapixel camera I figured I’d better put it to the test.

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Side by side you get more pixels of course with the Blackberry.  While the iPhone offers a brighter colour – which is not to say the Blackberry isn’t an accurate representation – it’s just not quite as nice.

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Up close side by side the difference isn’t noticeable at all.

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On a Panorama you’re once again just dealing with a colour difference, though I should point out the iPhone pic was much higher resolution.

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Interestingly, I’ve got to say for distant detail the Blackerry Priv wins (hard to show here online to be honest),  it’s marginal in daily use but a solid achievement against what I rate as the best Smartphone camera on the market.

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I found the OS at times sluggish, but Blackberry assure me that before it hits Australia there will be updates to address that, however while noticeable it wasn’t a new experience – happens a lot on Android phones that aren’t the top of the crop.

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So where does this sit?  We won’t know until we get Telco pricing info early in the new year, but it won’t be a mid-range phone.  Likely $800+ so a big call.

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Would you switch back for the keyboard?

I found myself forgetting it was there at times, while relieved when I did remember.  The only issue is that when using the keyboard there’s a lot of phone hanging above your fingers so the balance seems out – certainly not as comfortable as a traditional Blackberry – but perhaps I’ve gotta let that go.

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If you left Blackberry for the apps and ecosystem of Android, Blackberry is keen to welcome you back.  And you’ll feel like you’re at home.

It’s a competitive device in a saturated Android marketplace.  I worry that it’s too little too late, but hope it’s comeback time.

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We wait to find out.

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Tech

Trev produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He hosts a nightly radio show on Talking Lifestyle, 8pm Monday to Friday in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, appears on over 50 radio stations across Australia weekly, and is the Tech Expert on Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
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