Blackberry goes Android: Priv smartphone is light on its feet and a step up from the Classic

Confirmed BlackBerry fan Kevin Kwong gets his hands on the Canadian handset maker’s first Android smartphone

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 November, 2015, 6:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 November, 2015, 10:34pm

As a long-time BlackBerry user (since the 2008 Bold 9000) I have been waiting for the release of its new model, Priv, with much anticipation, not least because the Canadian handset maker’s last offering, the Classic, which runs on the OS 10 operating system, is so counterintuitive to use I have more than once contemplated chucking it out of the window.

So Blackberry’s first foray into the Android market is very welcome. Not only that, the Priv comes with a physical QWERTY keyboard, something I cannot function without.

I used a test unit provided by the company to write this report. The first thing I notice is how bright the 5.4-inch dual-curve OLED display is – and how light the phone is to hold, with the keyboard slid out for use. There is no tipping of the phone towards the top end ,as I feared might be the case.

The letter keys are firm and bouncy and easy to reach – but the keyboard is a bit cramped and users with big thumbs might find it hard to hit the right key.

Priv features a touch keyboard (like the one on its Passport model), meaning it can double up as a trackpad. That takes time to get used to, as the cursor keeps disappearing from where I’m typing or keeps jumping to a previous sentence. And why have they positioned the voice recognition button right next to “0”? Every time I press “0” the microphone pops up waiting for me to speak into it.

The virtual keyboard, with haptic feedback, is surprisingly easy to use, whether it is vertically or horizontally positioned.

Other things I noticed in this initial test is that the back of the handset heats up pretty fast after switching on, though it does cool down after a while. Battery life is expected to be long, with a built-in 3410mAh battery (compared with 2600mAh for the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge or 2915 mAh for iPhone 6s Plus).

The Priv is scheduled to come on the market mid-November in Hong Kong at a retail price of HK6,488.