There seems to be a love affair going on over at ZD Net. The parties involved? Writer Matthew Miller and the BlackBerry Passport.
Two days ago, Miller wrote a post entitled “Testing the BlackBerry Priv convinced me to buy another Passport” in which he details his limited experience with the BlackBerry Priv. Usually, it is extremely easy for me to read a post and decide if the person writing it is truly objective, a BlackBerry naysayer, or a BlackBerry fan. This post was much more difficult.
Miller seems far from objective in his review of the Priv by BlackBerry. In fact, he’s downright negative in parts. However, many of the aspects that he speaks negatively about, seem to be coming from a place I recognize. That BlackBerry shaped place in the heart of a true BlackBerry fanatic. And I echo many of those sentiments.
The first thing Miller delves in to is build quality. He states that the Priv feels cheap in the hand. I completely disagree. When you first hold a Priv, you will be amazed at the design. It’s all class. The lines are straight and sexy. Slide the screen up, and you know that this sliding mechanism will last the life of the phone. It feels even more solid than the nearly perfect BlackBerry Torch of yesteryear. Hold the Priv in one hand and hold a Samsung in the other. Do the same thing with an iPhone. I did that very thing while I was in my carrier store, and to me, there was a dramatic difference. The BlackBerry, which I have always thought of as a workhorse, just a solid block of communications tool, felt classy. Whereas the other phones felt, well, like toys. Even friends of mine, Androidian and iPhonian friends of mine who have recently found the Priv unexpectedly shoved in their hands as I show mine to them all have varying degrees of the same response, “wow, nice!”
However, when comparing the Priv to BlackBerry 10 devices, I have to say, I kind of agree with Miller. My Passport, along with every other BlackBerry 10 device I have handled, feel solid. They feel like tanks. As I mentioned before, they feel like tools. And the Priv, again, as mentioned before, feels classy. As nice as the Priv is, it just can’t compare to the BlackBerry Passport in build quality. And let’s not even consider comparing it to the BlackBerry Passport SE. I feel that the Priv would shudder in fear if faced down by an SE. I have no issue taking my Passport with me on hikes, or other physical excursions, and I feel like the Priv will probably await my return somewhere safe. Why? Because of the thinness of the device. It seems to be the way of the future, to make phones as thin as possible. I don’t think Apple’s Jonny Ive will be happy until you can turn the iPhone sideways and not see it. However, I feel differently. I want some heft to my phone. I want a phone that I can stick in my pocket and go. I want a phone I don’t have to be worried about it breaking through regular everyday use. And I’ve never had that fear with a BlackBerry before. And yet, I feel a little of that now with the Priv. All because of how thin it is.
Miller goes on to speak about the physical keyboard on the Priv. And it sounds as if he, like I, am having trouble using it. And he seems to be making the same assumptions as many other’s I’ve spoke to as to the reason why. I think those assumptions are wrong. The physical keyboard is great! It’s the classic BlackBerry physical keyboard that we’ve all used for years and loved. Until the BlackBerry Passport. The Passport did something to us. It changed the way we typed. The three row keyboard was extremely different, and had a learning curve to it. Indeed it took me a full two weeks, nearly to the day, before I felt as fast on it as I had on my previous keyboarded BlackBerry’s. And in the end, after extensive use, I’ve discovered I love that three row keyboard. Going back to a four row keyboard is proving difficult. Especially since I am not using it exclusively. I’m still bouncing between my Passport and Priv, and trying to relearn the four row physical keyboard all over again, I feel has slowed down my typing on both devices. I find it’s much easier to simply use the onscreen touch keyboard on the Priv, and that is shocking considering how I am very much a physical keyboard lover. I can safely say though, that it is not the size of the keyboard that is the issue for me, and I would bet it’s not the issue for others either. It is of course the first thing you notice when going from the wide Passport to the slimmer Priv. But if you compare the Priv’s keyboard to the Q10 and the Q5 you will find that they are nearly identical in size, and it is of course, much larger that the old Bolds and Torches and Curves of old that we used to have no issue typing quickly and accurately on. No, I believe the Passport has changed our muscle memory, and it will simply take some time to revert back
Next up on the block is the BlackBerry Hub. What should be the main differentiator between regular Android and BlackBerry Android. Miller lists off many complaints about the Hub. To which I respond, this is an Android phone. We simply cannot forget that when comparing to what we’re used to. The Priv’s Hub in it’s current state is a dramatic upgrade to the Android notification system. In fact, Android’s notifications are one of my biggest complaints, and a strong reason as to why I’d never use an Android as a daily driver. With the constant barrage of app updates and various app notifications that are par for the course on Android, it is entirely too easy to lose important notifications, and by that, I mean communications. With an Android device, there are always notifications spread out across the top of your phone, and sometimes, I can’t even figure out what they are for. More often than not, I simply ignore or clear all, and then with Android, like iOS, you must go to each individual app and check each for any missed communications. That is not acceptable to me. BlackBerry has fixed this through the Hub. I can now completely ignore the Android notifications, and nearly a week in to owning my Priv, I am still finding that I have more notifications to turn off so that I never have to see them. Now I can simply go in to the Hub and see all my communications as a glance, but not at a peak. Sadly, being a BB10 user, I have something which Android users do not. I have something to compare the Priv’s Hub to. And sadly, the Priv Hub just does not compare to BB10’s Hub. It’s close, but not close enough, not yet. The navigation is obviously not as smooth as in BB10, with Android we must click-click-click on those home buttons as opposed to simple swipes back on BB10. Being as this is an app, I do hope the swipes are brought back to the Hub in future updates, but we weren’t expecting them to be there now in the first place. It is quite obvious when reading an email or tweet or a text message, etc, that the Priv Hub is taking you out of the Hub for you to read and respond to the message, and coming back to the Hub, is just a back button press, however, it’s not as perfect as BB10’s Hub. We simply must remember that the BlackBerry 10 Hub, is an integral native part of BB10, and on Android, it is an app. We can’t really expect them to be on par with each other. However, it is very impressive that BlackBerry was able to pull off something that all of these other long term Android OEM’s have been unable to do.
Miller finishes off this post with a statement I heartily agree with, “Buy a Passport if you want a BlackBerry”. It’s true. If you want free access to Google Play Services, and whatever else Android brings to the table, by all means, get a Priv. It truly is an amazing beautiful phone, which delivers all it promises. Amazing photots, beautiful screen, efficiency not found on any other Android, and of course, a taste of BlackBerry security that will only get better with future updates. However, BlackBerry 10 offers efficiency and the ability to multitask in ways not found on any other platform period. Even after a week of using the Priv, which I truthfully consider to be heads and shoulders above any other Android device I’ve ever used, and probably the best Android device ever, I still find myself reaching for my Passport when it’s time to get stuff done, and get it done quickly.
Miller followed up this post today with another post in which he explains a contact sync issue which is effecting all mobile platforms, except, of course, BlackBerry 10. Reading his post, I feel a certain amount of satisfaction in his writing style. The satisfaction of someone who’s team has won. I believe there is a definite love connection between Miller and BlackBerry 10. Welcome Matthew, we know how it feels.