With the Priv having been released in Australia on Optus last Thursday, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. Not keen on Android devices at all, but after reading all the reviews, and having played with the device at the BlackBerry hands on back in December, I was all to eager to get one. So as soon as it was made available I rang Optus and placed my order that morning at 9.30am. It arrived by courier the very next morning at 7.30am, great service by Optus!
After removing the device from the box, booting up and admiring it for about 15 minutes, I updated the OS and all the BlackBerry apps, setup my accounts and put it on charge to let everything settle in. After work that day was where the fun and excitement of getting a new BlackBerry began. There is nothing quite like getting a new device and exploring all the cool features it has to offer.
My initial thoughts were that the 5.4″, 540PPI screen was fantastic, nice smooth rounded edges and beautiful colours that really stood out. The double tap to wake feature is great and very reliable, unlike my Passport which often took several swipes to wake at times, becoming annoying. Sliding up the screen to reveal the four row touch enabled physical keyboard was great, a nice smooth sliding action. It makes the phone look very long, but surprisingly the balance in hand was quite nice. Coming from the Passport, the keyboard feels a little cramped, but the Passport has spoiled me in that regard with a nicely spaced and large keyboard. The Priv keyboard is more the size of one of my older Bolds, which at the time was a good size, and shouldn’t take long to adapt. Other great features of the physical keyboard is the ability to assign customisable shortcuts, and using the touch enabled keyboard as a trackpad, making scrolling around the OS and in web pages a pleasure.
Using the installed BlackBerry content transfer app was a breeze. After installing on my Passport, all my selected content was transferred by wifi to the Priv. All I had to do was enter my account passwords, a new BlackBerry ID, as this was going to be a secondary device to my Passport, and I was good to go.
The first app I set up and played around with was the Hub. BlackBerry have done an amazing job here, incorporating the BB10 hub into the Android OS. Whilst it isn’t available by swiping screen from left to right as in BB10, there is an app icon set at the bottom of screen and it is also set as one of the three swipe shortcuts, which is accessed by swiping up on the round Android “Home” button. This is a great idea as it makes it quickly available from anywhere in the OS. Notifications of incoming messages also briefly appear at the top of screen, allowing you to quickly reply to that message without having to leave the screen you are currently on, again, similar to BB10. Customising notifications such as tones, LED, priority etc are all easily done also. All in all, the Android version of the hub is very similar to the BB10 version and a great addition to the Android OS.
The next feature I set up was picture password, and I’m glad BlackBerry brought this across to Android. So many people I show it to are amazed at how easy it is to use, yet almost impossible to guess even when watching it being unlocked several times. This should be a feature on EVERY OS!
Blackberry have brought numerous apps across from BB10, including Device Search, Contacts, Calendar, Password Keeper, Camera, Keyboard, Tasks, Notes and obviously BBM. These give the Android OS a very distinctive “BlackBerry” feel.
The camera is an 18MP shooter with twin flash, 4K 1080p 60 frames per second video recording capability, Optical Image Stabilisation, fast focus, face detection and 4x digital zoom. I’m yet to try to the 4K recording as my SD card isn’t a class 10, so recording is limited to 720p at 30 frames per second. I have one on order and can’t wait to try out the video quality at it’s best. Speaking of SD cards, the Priv takes a micro SD card up to a massive 2TB capacity. The camera features are great, with lots of custom settings such as HDR, Timer, image size, Geolocation, Panorama mode, and various colour settings. The pictures are a great quality and so far I am very pleased with the way it’s performing. The front facing 2MP camera isn’t the greatest but I’m not one for taking selfies, so this will rarely be used. It does however, have image and video stabilisation, 720P HD video recording, 2 X digital zoom, low light enhancement and Wide Selfie mode (aka Selfie panorama, lol).
Other device features are fully functioning Bluetooth and NFC capabilities, WiFi Hotspot and standard micro USB charge/sync port with USB OTG and slim port capability.
When it comes to using Google’s apps, I have tried to stay away from them as much as possible, going down a similar path to Canuckvoip as he mentions in his blog post. I have disabled the Chrome browser and am currently alternating between FireFox and Dolphin browsers with DuckDuckGo set as the default search engine. I am trying out Here Maps instead of Google Maps, and I only use my Gmail as a Play Store login, none of my emails are touched by Gmail. Call me paranoid, but I simply don’t want Google tracking my every move and selling or sharing my data with whoever they please.
The DTEK app by BlackBerry is a great addition to highlight the status of your device security, and alerts you to what apps are accessing your data and the frequency at which they are doing it. You can set notifications to alert you when an app accesses certain data, and these will show up in the hub. Quite surprising to see how many times some apps access your information!!
The OS itself is very snappy with 3GB ram and I haven’t noticed any lag at all. As a lot of people have mentioned, it does seem a little cluttered and difficult to navigate at times, but then, I’m so used to BB10 being so smooth and easy to navigate. Not previously being a big user of any Android devices, this will take a little time to get used to, as with any new OS. The lack of an inbuilt File Manager was a big let down, especially since the BB10 File manager was so good. Hopefully BlackBerry can incorporate a File Manager similar to BB10 in a future update.
I am currently switching between ES File Manager and File Manager by Asus. Another let down was the lack of a native Calculator, but, all these minor issues can be resolved by visiting Google Play Store and downloading one of the many thousands of apps. Just something we take for granted with BB10, having all this functionality “out of the box” and ready for productivity, instead of fumbling through a multitude of apps to find something to do the job.The lack of BlackBerry Blend is a bit disappointing also, but not a deal breaker for me.
As for battery life? Can’t comment too much on that as my Passport is still my primary device. But the 3410mAh battery seems to be on par with the Passport as far as I can tell with my extended use.
All in all, am I happy with the Priv? Yes indeed! It’s a beautiful device and BlackBerry have done a fantastic job bringing a lot of BB10 to Android. Will this device save BlackBerry’s handset division? Maybe not on it’s own, but it’s a great start and BlackBerry had to do something radical to boost device sales. It appears to be a very popular device that has had great reviews, and here in Australia, Optus have sold out in 5 days. Where BB10 has been stated to lack a lot of the popular apps, the Priv certainly addresses that issue.
Is this device for everyone? No, it was never intended to be. But no doubt it will attract a lot of Android and iPhone users, as well as a number of BlackBerry users that require those popular apps. I myself, am more than happy keeping my Passport as my primary device as I believe this is the best device and OS currently available. In saying that, I will get a lot of enjoyment out of the Priv and could quite easily use it as a daily device should anything unfortunate happen to my Passport.
Would I recommend this device? No hesitation. It is definitely up there with the best devices and I believe it’s currently the best Android device/software combination available. If you are thinking of getting a Priv, do it! I had doubts about it too, but I’m so glad I did!