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

Al Sacco | Dec. 4, 2015
CIO.com 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?

I'm certainly not going to set alerts for every app I download, so my inbox is inundated with DTek notifications. The average user probably won't even take the time to experiment with DTek, and even if they learn that their favorite apps request access to their camera or microphone regularly, and they don't know why, they still won't stop using them. Some apps legitimately need access to sensitive information to function, and it's not always clear why. So despite all of the alerts and associated information DTek provides, it doesn't make it easy for users to know when to worry.

blackberry priv rear camera
Credit: Brian Sacco

BlackBerry built in a number of methods to password-protect PRIV, including a unique image-based system that lets you drag a specific photo into place on your display to unlock the phone, but it lacks a fingerprint reader. I've used my fingerprint to unlock iPhones and Galaxy devices for years, and it feels like a real regression to have to use a password. (CIO.com's IT department enforces a policy that blocks PRIV's image unlock.)

Though PRIV supports expandable memory, it doesn't have a removable battery. Despite its impressive battery life, there's really no replacement for the comfort of knowing you have an extra battery if you can't get to a power source while traveling, or if your electricity goes out during a winter storm.

BlackBerry smartphones traditionally have high-quality speakerphones, as well, but PRIV's speaker falls short when it comes to volume and sound quality. It isn't as loud as the iPhone 6s Plus, for example, and it's significantly more tinny and raspy-sounding.

These concerns apply to both users and mobile admins, but IT should take particular note of the following shortcomings before embracing PRIV.

Why IT might not love BlackBerry PRIV

If your organization has contracts or commitments with Verizon Wireless or Sprint in the United States, PRIV is not for you. It's not compatible with either or these two "Big Four" U.S. wireless carriers. U.S. Cellular customers are also out of luck.

The build quality of the device is questionable. It feels plastic-y, and somewhat flimsy. The sliding-hinge mechanism and thin bezel around the display are made of metal, but the rest of the device is composed of hard plastic, and it doesn't feel durable. The back panel on my PRIV is loose, as well, and if I press on it, I can feel space between the fiber layer and the internal components, which adds to the "cheap" feeling. And though the curved edges on the display look nice, they make the phone somewhat slippery, which could lead to more drops and damaged phones.

 

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