BlackBerry Priv was the first attempt by BlackBerry to dip its toes in the badlands of Android. Stock Android is a barebones operating system. It means that it ships with trademark Google’s signature of making the OS vulnerable to malware, it’s sieve like “security” is second to none and is extremely fragmented. The OS spews out notification after notification without any actionable information. The users are indeed spoilt for choices in terms of applications but it’s simply a mirage. Each one of them is a clone of the other without offering any incremental advantage.
There’s hardly anything you can do with stock Android, except pinging Google about being the new owner, so that it can track you. The settings are disparate without any central place to manage them. I had only worked with Android Lollipop, at time of writing this, so I can only relate my experience in terms of controlling applications. Android ships with Google Chrome browser, that also tracks the user. It’s indeed terrible in terms of communication- there’s no central point wherein the communications fall in- text, instant messages and emails. For each one of them, you need to be dependent on applications which ironically are reformatted mobile versions of the websites.
In short, stock Android is a disaster. It’s a pity that its been labelled as “customizable” or “offering a choice to the users” but those who can tinker with the innards, prefer to root it to make it more manageable.
I wonder what would have been the reaction of the BlackBerry’s engineers when faced with the onerous task of cleaning up the holy mess of Android landscape.
For once, lets see how Priv actually enhances Android.
Priv was gifted with a superlative hardware; I marvel at its slide out keyboard, the textured back and the awesome camera that exceeds anything else in the market. Personally, many at UTB feel that Priv hardware was worthy of BlackBerry 10 but for the time being, we’d let it pass. Starting from the encrypted process of booting up, BlackBerry locked it with hardware keys and ensuring that the important boot process has not been tampered with; kind of a steady state surveillance of the device. This is made possible by its deep secure expertise ensuring that Priv remains true to it’s name- private and secure. In addition, Priv comes with a host of security credentials making it mandatory for locking it up. Android “purists” cannot “root it” and BlackBerry has explained that it compromises with the security of the device since malicious applications are able to gain super user privileges.
Hub implementation has been done as an application; an overlay on the stock Android’s lack of communication applications. Much like it’s counterpart, it adds the IMAP Push and Exchange Sync protocols, out of the box. This is in addition to native CalDav and CardDav support that is missing in Android. Oh yes, you guessed it. You need a third party application for it! Its indeed a massive engineering feat to make Android useful to any degree. Arguably, you can have the proprietary Gmail application but then this isn’t locking yourself in Googleplex. Therefore, BlackBerry gives the user a further choice.
Adding the contacts sync was tad difficult with my current favoured platform of choice- Fastmail. I think it was Android’s fault since the accounts were not linked. These were in contrast to BlackBerry 10 wherein I could set in default accounts to set up Calendar invites through email. This isn’t a deal breaker since I could use my work exchange account but definitely a shortcoming.
Android has other gripes as well. It tends to lag down; but in my time with Priv, I never faced any issues. The applications remained responsive, never had a freeze frame, never had to reboot and my device went through a series of updates that made the keyboard even more responsive and at par with the native BlackBerry 10 experience. There was a struggle to find a file manager replacement since the popular choices were deemed to be privacy hassles; they opened up backdoors to servers in China, siphoning away the user information.
What I missed the most in Priv’s enhancement? Two things. The unique gestural interface of BlackBerry 10 that makes the workflow super smooth and granular application controls. This would limit the amount of exposure. For the first time, I had to get enhanced data package from my service provider because it was using the background application data excessively. I never faced any issue with BlackBerry 10.
Priv is a work in progress with Android M coming in shortly (its in carrier testing as I write this). I hope that some usage interface issues would be sorted out with the next update. There’s no need to follow app>home> another app routine. BlackBerry has very smartly implemented the app drawer; much like the home screen on BlackBerry 10 that makes it easier to eye-ball an application and the consistent updates. I would personally want to see actionable notifications; like replying to BBM, as I can do in my Z30 without loosing focus. That, dear readers, is the true multi-tasking. QNX, as the heart of BlackBerry 10, truly excelled in allocating resources without being a drain on the battery life. Hopefully, they would engineer Android to the same level of excellence.
The best part is that BlackBerry has consistently delivered security updates; often within hours to fix the security holes that are routinely discovered, unlike that by competing OEM’s who neglect their users. In the past 4 months, I have seen a steady state of updates that secured the Android device further.
BlackBerry alone genuinely cares for the consumers. Just another reason-