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To casual observers, it might seem that BlackBerry has long since dropped out of the smartphone bunfight. Once a heavyweight of global proportions, BlackBerry took some serious body-blows as full touchscreen smartphones (from the likes of Samsung, Apple and others) dominated consumer markets and media headlines. But BlackBerry are not retired yet, and the BlackBerry Priv honestly packs a punch.
Need to know
The Priv is the first BlackBerry running the Android operating system (OS) (5.1.1 Lollipop). Last week we offered you our first impressions of the new phone. But there’s a lot more to be said about this interesting device.
A quick rundown to catch you up: The Priv has 5.4-inch touch screen, a virtual keyboard and a slide-out touch-enabled physical keyboard (that registers swipes and gestures to help you scroll and speed through predictive text). It has internal storage of 32GB, which can be boosted with a micro-SD card (up to 2TB). It has an 18MP rear-facing camera that compares favourably with the iPhone 6s.
Plus, because it runs Android, you have access to all the apps your heart desires, without the incompatibility sometimes encountered when using third-party apps on the BlackBerry OS.
Premium and productive
The Priv is a premium device – sleek, glossy, specc’ed out to compete with the latest top-end devices. This includes a quadHD display, covered in tough Gorilla Glass 4, with two curved edges. It is a bit hefty (192g), but feels great in hand with a “glass weave” back cover that is softly textured to be less slippery. And even though it’s running Android, it has some of BlackBerry’s best productivity features included. The message hub is there, for example. The hub brings together all your SMSs, messages, notifications and emails, and helps you easily manage them from one place. A favourite function here is the ability to ‘snooze’ an email or message till you are ready to deal with it.
Android with a BlackBerry shield
If you’re not worried about the security on your Android device, perhaps you missed the memo. Malware in the app store is a major problem for Android users, and that simple flashlight app or game you downloaded may have sneaky access to your calendar, contacts, location and even camera and microphone without you realising. And here is where the BlackBerry-Android combo really impresses.
The Priv runs an app called DTEK that can give you a colour-coded review of your device’s security status, showing you where to tighten up. It also monitors (and then lets you control) the access and uses of all installed application.
DTEK makes permissions so simple and straightforward, and will open your eyes to the things you let slide out of ignorance before. The picture log-in option is also very good. Then, behind the scenes, the Priv packs BlackBerry’s hardware security innovations that you won’t necessarily see working, but still benefit from.
Is it enough?
Without the help of a magic ball, only time will tell if the Priv can make the market dent that BlackBerry hopes it will. But consumers would be silly to dismiss it. Especially if you’re already an Android user, the experience of moving from handset to handset is pretty painless, and usually based on the handset specs and price point. The Priv’s top-end features make a good case for themselves, and the keyboard and security features are unique selling points.
The BlackBerry Priv is now available through Vodacom Online on a number of plans, from as little as R749 per month for 24 months on a Smart S plan, which gives you 75 minutes, 200MB of data and 200 SMSs, to R1 999 per month for 24 months on a RED Advantage plan, which gives you unlimited minutes, unlimited SMSs and 5GB of data a month.
All BlackBerry Priv deals come with BBM Text and a R10 000 online education voucher.
(Please note that prices were correct at time of publishing on 9 February 2016 and are prior to change without notice.)