BlackBerry Priv review: Android’s apps with less risk, premium hardware

If you love your BlackBerry phone but felt a little left out because you couldn’t get the apps you wanted, you are going to think BlackBerry has knocked this one out of the park. The Priv has all of the apps you’d want from Android and all the productivity features you’d expect in a BlackBerry.

The Priv is a gorgeous device. It’s elegant, slim, and weighing in at 192 grams, it feels solid in your grip. And look at this – you get uncompromised touch screen real estate and instant access to the trademark BlackBerry keyboard when you want it.

Migrating to the Priv from my Samsung Galaxy 5 was a breeze thanks to Android’s new Tap & Go setup process. I just turned on NFC, put the backs together and wait for the tone. Voila – my email account and apps were transferred to the Priv.

I was also able to pick up my old microSD card and slide it right into the BlackBerry Priv’s expandable memory slot. That’s something I can appreciate after using a Galaxy 5 and an iPhone – neither device supports external memory. And that’s just the first advantage I found the Priv holds over its rivals.

Yes, this runs Android. But some of the best features of BlackBerry 10 are here too. Take the Hub for example. It brings all of your online communications into one place that’s easy to access at any time. Considering that I have four different email accounts – that’s one for personal and three for business – plus all my social media accounts, the Hub saves me a ton of time. On a different device, I’d have to open separate apps for all of that.

A flick the finger and I can view the separated accounts. All together… separate… easy. I can’t do this on any other phone. And this is just the beginning of the productivity power features.

The physical keyboard is just great. I can write articles on it – and I write some long articles. When it makes sense, I can use the touch screen keyboard powered with BlackBerry’s predictive typing engine. It learns about your typing habits over time and simple gesture lets you add full words. Or just use Google’s voice recognition service to dictate a note. You’ll be surprised how accurate it is.

Remember the flow feature from BlackBerry 10? That’s here too. Move from email to calendar to contacts to your phone – all in one place. And the management of contacts and emails is fantastic. Must Android devices will show you duplicate contacts, but the BlackBerry combines them.

For email, I can read, file, or flag as important. When I get that email at 9 in the morning and want to deal with it later, I just hit “snooze” and it comes back a few hours later. It’s the little things like this that puts BlackBerry head and shoulders above others for productivity.

When it comes to security, I know what you’re thinking – Android is too risky. But BlackBerry is addressing that. It claims that it’s secured the stack, and keeps all data on the device encrypted. There’s even an answer for those dodgy Android apps. It’s called DTEK.

DTEK monitors your apps and processes in real time and gives you a security rating for your device. Its advanced tools track when your personal information – like GPS coordinates or contacts – are accessed. It alerts you when apps are accessing your data – or even if they’re turning on your microphone or camera. DTEK is easy to use and can be fully customized.

Here’s some interesting things I learned about the apps on my device from DTEK. Twitter is using contacts and location. Evernote and CBC are using location. That’s okay with me. LinkedIn is looking at my contacts. And it did that 7 times. Skype has accessed my contacts 3,141 times. That’s kind of alarming. But it is Skype, owned by Microsoft. So it might be doing things I don’t want – but at least I know.

Finally, I can’t finish the review without mentioning the great battery life. BlackBerry says that the huge battery of this device will last for 22 hours of mixed use. As a power user, I found I could get between 8 and 14 hours before needing a recharge.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jim Love
Jim Love
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO and Chief Digital Officer of IT World Canada - Canada's leader in ICT publishing and digital marketing.

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