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BlackBerry Priv review: If you simply must have a physical keyboard

Florence Ion | Nov. 6, 2015
BlackBerry’s first stab at an Android device is a pretty decent attempt. But will it be enough to save the company?

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Credit: Florence Ion

The last BlackBerry smartphone I held was the Z10 in 2013, and it seemed like that was the company’s last hurrah in this industry. But here we are, nearly three years later, and I’m holding an Android-powered BlackBerry device. I never thought I’d see the day.

Its existence isn’t a total surprise. The BlackBerry Priv has been making its rounds in the rumor mill the past few months and Android fans seem evenly divided on it. You’re either really excited to see BlackBerry try its hand in the Android space, or you’re tired of watching the company endure a slow and painful death. One thing is for certain: this is BlackBerry’s last chance at securing any sort of marketshare in the smartphone industry. Again.

The BlackBerry Priv isn’t a bad attempt at an Android device. It’s actually pretty neat, and BlackBerry worked with Google to ensure it put forth a version of Android that wouldn’t ruffle a purist’s feathers. It also runs on the same hardware as some of its competitors and features a physical keyboard, which at this point feels more like a throwback than a useful utility. Overall, there’s plenty to like about the Priv. I just wish it wasn’t a whopping $700.

A different kind of Android phone

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From afar it...kind of looks like a Nokia. Credit: Florence Ion

The BlackBerry Priv is a slider phone. The last slider phone the Android world produced was…well, it’s been awhile. The closest thing we have now is the Galaxy Note 5’s keyboard cover. The Priv doesn’t look too Android-y, either; it’s more reminiscent of an older Nokia Lumia device. There’s a power button that lives on the left side of the device, and a mute button on the right that’s sandwiched in between two volume keys. Both the SIM and expansion slot live on top, while the headphone jack is on the bottom.

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This is the first slider phone I’ve seen in a long time. Credit: Florence Ion

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The keyboard slider makes it a bit thicker than other devices, though it’s not a burden. Credit: Florence Ion

This phone is definitely styled in BlackBerry’s aesthetic. It’s black with gray trim, and a bit stuffy compared to any of Samsung or Motorola’s devices. This is definitely an “all business, all the time” kind of smartphone, and if you’re looking for something casual and sexy, this isn’t it. The Priv is a bit flimsy in its construction, too, and the screen has been made so thin to accommodate the keyboard underneath it, that it bends too easily.

 

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