BlackBerry Priv: A looker but not a performer

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BlackBerry Priv: A looker but not a performerBack in 2011, BlackBerry phones were all the rage mainly because of its exclusive messaging service. But it was soon overshadowed by Android-based smartphones.

BlackBerry’s latest offering – the Priv – is aimed to bring the brand back in the spotlight. Priv, an Android-powered phone, retains the USP of BlackBerry phones – the hardware keyboard. The screen slides up which, in turn, reveals the hardware keyboard. This makes the phone look uber stylish. Several people came up to me and inquired about the phone and marvelled at the suave design.

  • Display: 5.4-inch 1,440 x 2,560p
  • OS: Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
  • Processor: Qualcomm MSM8992 Snapdragon 808
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Storage: 32GB; expandable
  • Camera: 18MP front; 2MP rear
  • Battery: Non-removable 3,410 mAh

The problem with most slider phones is that they become top-heavy once the screen slides up. So, I was a bit apprehensive with the Priv. But to my surprise, the phone is pretty comfortable to hold and thin, so much so that one can’t make out it’s a slider phone by just looking at it.

The “Priv”, short for privacy, has added an extra layer of security to the phone. DTEK security, a software in the phone, monitors the device and gives you regular inputs. Though the Priv doesn’t run Android Marshmallow, it provides one with the feature of customising privacy settings for every app.

The phone comes with a 5.4-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 pixels, which gives sharp colours. The speaker is in front at the bottom and like classic BlackBerry phones, the ‘mute’ button is in between the volume buttons. The Priv comes with a 3,410 mAh battery which is more than enough for a day. It has an 18-megapixel (MP) primary camera and provides for sharp and good quality images even in low-light conditions. However, the 2MP secondary camera reminded me of my old Curve 8520 and the grainy pictures it produced. At a time when even low-segment smartphones are going in for 5MP secondary cameras, the Priv sorely disappoints.

Under the hood, the phone packs some good hardware – it has a Snapdragon 808 processor with 3GB of RAM. But even with these specs, the Priv slows down sometimes. Some apps, such as the camera, are slow to load. This issue, in turn, messes with the battery of the phone.

The Priv comes with the BlackBerry Hub. The Hub is aimed to integrate incoming messages, emails, tweets and calls into one super app. However, I faced some problem syncing my Hotmail account. This was where the Priv’s “slowness” was glaring.

But what would irk many Indian consumers is its price tag. At Rs 62,990, the Priv falls into the premium smartphone segment but fails to deliver. If one turns off all the BlackBerry customisations, the Priv is like any other Android smartphone and apart from BlackBerry loyalists, I don’t see why anyone would pick this phone. Unless, of course, they want to flaunt the stylish slider design and the hardware keyboard underneath.