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BlackBerry PRIV review: A new standard for Android in enterprise?

Al Sacco | Dec. 4, 2015 spent a month testing BlackBerry's first Android smartphone with a focus on the businesspeople and IT managers who will use and support it. The PRIV is the most capable BlackBerry ever, but does it deliver on what may be its most important promise?

blackberry priv keyboard full
Credit: Brian Sacco

A month ago, BlackBerry released what could prove to be the most important smartphone in the Canadian company's storied history: the BlackBerry PRIV.

PRIV is the first BlackBerry that doesn't run a version of the company's own OS. Instead, it runs Google's Android OS. It's a forward departure from what most of the world expects from BlackBerry today. It's aimed at the enterprise, and its productivity-focused users — but PRIV legitimately measures up to the most popular consumer devices. And BlackBerry put a sharp focus on privacy. (PRIV's name is a play on the phrase, privilege of privacy.)

blackberry blackberrys priv classic passport
Credit: Brian Sacco

PRIV could also be one of the last smartphones, if not the final handset, BlackBerry ever releases, at least based on some ominous comments the company's CEO made in October.

I've been using the PRIV for a month now, and evaluating it from the perspectives of a tech-savvy businessperson and an IT manager. 

A lot of people who yearn for the comfortable and familiar clack of those old BlackBerry keys will herald the debut of this smartphone, and the mobile administrators who manage PRIVs will appreciate BlackBerry's eye toward enterprise in its "flavor" of Android. However, some obvious shortcoming will become clear to the most diehard BlackBerry loyalists. And the IT managers who want to deploy, or have to support, PRIV across their workforces also have reason for concern.

blackberry classic passport priv 
BlackBerry Classic, Passport and PRIV. Credit: Brian Sacco

I broke this BlackBerry PRIV review into three sections: The good, the bad and the decision. Hit these individual links to jump to specific sections of interest.

First up, the features and functionality business users and IT managers will appreciate about PRIV. 

BlackBerry PRIV Review: The good

Why business users will love BlackBerry PRIV

PRIV runs Android, but it's still a genuine BlackBerry, thanks to its "physical" full QWERTY keyboard, the "BlackBerry Hub" inbox and a number of additional throwbacks to BlackBerry phones of yore.

PRIV's QWERTY keyboard is a more compact version of the touch-sensitive BlackBerry Passport keypad (with four rows of keys instead of three), and it features many of the same unique gestures and predictive text functionality, so you can slide a finger up to choose predicted words, or drag a digit around the keyboard to trigger the on-screen cursor. BlackBerry's system for predictive text is unrivaled, and the more you use it, the better it gets at guessing the words you want. Predictive text works on both the on-screen keyboard and the physical QWERTY pad.


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