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Blackberry Priv review

/ Technical
November 30th, 2015

Having my new Blackberry Priv is like having a long-lost dog return home. I’ve always been a fan of Blackberry devices in the past, typically due to the security of the devices – they were and still are miles ahead of any of the competition. The built-in keyboards were also excellent and after a couple of days getting used to it you are back, thrashing emails out at almost a desk-based pace.

blackberry priv

I’ve taken some stick over my new device; asking why I’ve got a Blackberry, etc…  I simply ask them why people stopped using Blackberry devices in the first place? You don’t get an answer straight away so I generally state that Blackberry dropped off the face of a cliff predominately due to their application store. It was bad. There were so few applications that the end-user felt they were missing out. In short, Blackberry deserved to really suffer, locking down your hardware and software long-term is a very risky business.

I believe Blackberry has made some smart moves as a business, in terms of development and acquisition. Moves which could see them rise from the ashes and place a flag on that empty hill – the business mobile space. None of the players, with exception of Microsoft, have really started to scale it. It was left empty after the Blackberry collapse. It’s there for the taking but they haven’t got long. This will very likely be the end of their hardware business if they can’t turn a profit on the PRIV. If this does happen their patents and software will live on.

So, after a week of use here’s my view on the BlackBerry PRIV:

Phone Hardware

The device looks smart and has a quality feel to it. You feel that it’s on a par with the Samsung Galaxy and iPhone devices in terms of build quality. The addition of a slide-out keyboard is a real productivity enhancer for the new user and the old Blackberry fan. It’s all balanced, is comfortable in weight and can’t be faulted. If you don’t like to use a hard keyboard you aren’t sacrificing anything with its presence and there’s a really smart on-screen option also built-in. However, with a little bit of practice, you’ll appreciate the physical one.

Battery

I’ve been using my Blackberry PRIV for a couple of days and have just plugged the device in to charge with 4% left.  If you don’t play games, go hard on Facebook or sit on Twitter for hours you’ll drag out the battery for longer.

Operating System

Android is a decent mobile platform. It’s one of the big two, with the other being Apple’s IOS. I’m new to it but I haven’t had any issues getting to grips with it on the Blackberry. I guess you can look at the Blackberry as Android with a titanium shell – you get all the benefits of the mobile operating system plus robust security out of the box.

I do get the initial Android first move by Blackberry – it gets the numbers up faster. Personally, I’d have preferred it if they’d gone for Windows, as I’ve had Windows devices for over three years and really liked the operating system on the Nokia Lumia devices. Going forward Windows 10 is going to drive more and more application developers onto the platform. The seamless integration with business applications is making it a real player, especially in the corporate market. If the PRIV is a success I believe you’ll see Blackberry hardware devices using the Windows platform in the future, if not then you’ll see Blackberry’s software and hardware patents being licensed further into other manufacturers.

Applications

The Blackberry PRIV comes with all of the applications you can get from the Google Play store, the same as any other Android based mobile device, but with some of your old favourites from the Blackberry stable – such as Blackberry Hub, email, BBM, calendar, etc. All of these applications have been ported over perfectly. Hub is a great content aggregator, as it lets you see all of your emails, MMS messages, WhatsApp messages and BBMs in a single stream, rather than hopping between various applications.

Out of the box Security

On the surface, the Blackberry PRIV does look like any normal Android phone, but as you start to use it you start getting hints on how security is still the major focus of the brand. One of the first things I noticed was an application called DTEK – a quick and easy summary of the security situation in relation to your device. The application monitors applications and processes in real-time and gives you a clear security score. Simple, straightforward and easy to understand for any user.  The system continually monitors and reports, so once set you don’t need to keep checking your security status. It’s great for peace of mind for those without vast IT security teams yet deal with sensitive information.

Enhanced Security in the Enterprise

In a business with a significant number of mobile users or those with greater security requirements, you should manage and control mobile devices centrally to ensure compliance. Thankfully this has always been an area where Blackberry excells, they are still years ahead of the other players. When the PRIV is managed by BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) we really are getting back to gaining granular control of security again. Some key features include layered defence, hardware root of trust, Blackberry secure compound, secure boot, Blackberry integrity detection, kernel hardening, encrypted user data and BES12 activation types.

Summary

Buying a mobile device is like buying a car – it’s so personal. Blackberry certainly seem to have released a high-end, functional device that will also give the end-user the freedom they require, if you wish to allow it. I’m reviewing this phone for business, but obviously, you have to take into account casual personal use. Finally, Blackberry has grasped the nettle, it shouldn’t be too late.

I like the PRIV,  I really like it. As you can probably tell I am missing the Windows operating system from my old Lumia. However that will pass in a few days (it always does) and the additional security functions are worth it, and they don’t impact productivity at all. If you are an Android user you’ll be happy with the PRIV. You will find it easy to switch from a Samsung Galaxy or similar device. If you are a Windows mobile or an iPhone user it’s an easy swap too. It’s a serious business device and shows you take security seriously.

Ultimately I believe Blackberry’s success rests more on their marketing capabilities than their hardware or software. This will be the decider of success or failure. In the long term. If you buy the PRIV now you won’t be risking anything. You’ll have a smart, functional device in your pocket that you can feel comfortable with in terms of security.

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