BlackBerry Priv: After two weeks on test, looks like this is a keeper

The Priv did more than just survive – it flourished


Two-week test I seem to have spent my life getting through, testing, and handling a lot of phones. A lot. But I hate phones. I hate all the hundreds of them I have lying around my house and the countless thousands of pounds I have spent on them.

I hate that despite having tried, and bought, what seems like every combination possible, virtually none of them have really done what I want. And I hate that the more sophisticated they get, the more I dislike them.

Smartphones? I’ve being doing smart since smart meant pointing my Psion Series 5 at the IR port on my Nokia 6310, and getting email, to the utter amazement of people around me.

For a good few years now numerous exotic techie things have come and gone, and relieved me of cash, time I’ll never get back, and small bits of my sanity.

And so, here comes the BlackBerry PRIV, next in a long line of phones which promises to disappoint.

I give phones a two-week period where anticipating is followed by fiddling, enthusiasm, disappointment and abandonment. Will the PRIV be the phone to make it through the cycle?

I didn’t have high hopes. It’s Android, after all, which fails the two-week-test more often and more unfailingly than any other thing, but which keeps me coming back for more in the hope that some new One Plus, or Note, or other thingy will turn out somehow less disappointing, less Googly, more geekable than the one before.

But no. They rarely make it past the test, and I soldier on with some of them until a new thing comes along at the same time as I’m feeling foolish enough to be parted from yet more of my cash.

Oddly enough, the phone that has lasted longest recently is a BlackBerry Passport. I’ve had it a while now, as a backup, mainly email phone. I gave it a go as my main phone a few months ago and something strange happened: it started to all click into place.

But just as I started to really enjoy living with it, despite all its quirks, it seems that the Passport, along with the most usable of all the mobile operating systems, BB10, was sentenced to death.

Perhaps the PRIV could bridge the gap between Android’s irritations, and BlackBerry 10’s too-quirky-for-most-people niche appeal?

I’ve had it two weeks now. I am still using it. So far this looks pretty good. Now, I’m excusing some things which I think should be properly put down to early or pre-production software. For example, it took ages to download email until it got an update.

The hyper-sensitive touchscreen sometimes makes the pull-down menu appear when not wanted, under-sensitive touch screen doesn’t notice even firm pecks sometimes.

Other than that, none of which really counts, I think this might be my least disliked Android phone so far. It’s at least as good as the best Android phones I have used, because it’s the same as all other Androids, just minus the garbage often layered on top. And it’s better, because the BlackBerry stuff layered on top is very far from being garbage.

The PRIV has a beautiful screen with lovely (and more-or-less pointless) curved edges. It’s thin and it doesn’t dig into your palms when holding it in two hands, like the Passport does.

The slidey-up screen/keyboard trick is really clever and even though the keyboard is tiny and fiddly compared to the Passport – but about the same as a Q10 – it’s still the best way to type anything longer than a few words. Sometimes sliding the screen up just makes the phone easier to hold, even if you’re not typing.

The attempt to port the beloved/beloathed BlackBerry Hub to Android hasn’t quite worked perfectly and some of the best features are missing – the pinch-to-filter gesture is absent, for example, and I miss BB10’s “email triage” for example.

But this is software, and I bet it gets better. It’s perfectly usable for now, and much better than the numerous Android email clients I have tried.

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