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What to know about the BB Priv in SA?

Author: Hadlee Simons Updated: 10:02 16-02-2016

BlackBerry has launched its first Android smartphone in South Africa this week.

The Priv features Android 5.1 (but will receive the 6.0 update), a Snapdragon 808 chip, 3GBs of RAM and 32GBs of expandable storage.

In the camera department, you're looking at an 18MP main camera (with optical stabilisation and superfast autofocus) as well as a 2MP selfie shooter.


BlackBerry's cherry on top

It wouldn't be a BlackBerry phone without additional features (both hardware and software), so what has the firm done in this regard?

Well, the most noticeable addition is a physical slideout keyboard, akin to the older Torch lineup.

The physical keyboard offers a number of features derived from last year's Passport device, including the ability to use it as a trackpad, a right-to-left swipe to delete entire words and more.

The Canadian company has tossed some of its BlackBerry 10 features into the fray as well.

BlackBerry's excellent virtual keyboard is available, enabling users to make "word-flick" gestures to quickly string sentences together.

Then there's the BlackBerry Hub, which collates notifications and allows you to respond to messages within the hub.

The company has also slapped a neat DTek security manager into the Priv, which delivers a security rating, shows you how to improve security/privacy and delivers a detailed permission manager (showing you when and where an app accessed your location, for instance).


Getting Privvy with it

The company didn't reveal a prepaid price, saying that Vodacom, Cell C and MTN are free to set their own prepaid price. So how much are they charging for the Priv?

Well, Vodacom's touting a R699/month contract and an eyewatering R15 399 price tag, while Orange is listing a R14 000 price. In other words, this is one expensive puppy.

So why should a consumer opt for this over the sea of other Android devices? After all, going the Android route isn't a guarantee of success – just ask HTC.

Martin Fick, BlackBerry's Senior Country Product Manager, said that they're standing out thanks to features like the physical keyboard, productivity enhancements (such as the BlackBerry Hub) and security features.

It makes you wonder why BlackBerry took so long to launch a full-fledged Android phone though…

"If we look at what John Chen actually said… he actually said that we will only launch an Android device once we are happy with the level of security on which we can make it available," Fick answered.

Fick sidestepped a question regarding sales expectations for South Africa, but claimed the company has struggled to keep up with demand globally.

Another important question regards the fate of BlackBerry 10, but Fick said the platform was still going to be supported by BlackBerry. In fact, the company was working on BlackBerry 10.3.3 and 10.3.4 updates, the Blackberry representative said.


Priv impressions

If anything, you can't deny that the Priv stands out from the pack. Just look at the slideout QWERTY keyboard, the sharp, curved edge display and the pleasant matte-like finish.

The slideout keyboard might put people off though, owing to the awkward nature of it (to be fair, it doesn't feel too top-heavy or anything). Additionally, some have complained that the keys are too tiny as well, and I'm inclined to agree at this stage.

The actual act of sliding out the keyboard feels counter-intuitive initially, as your instinct is to press down on the screen to slide the keyboard out (resulting in unwanted screen interactions). The display's chin protrudes a little bit though, allowing you to slide out from there instead. But I feel like this method will cause the phone to unexpectedly pop out of your hand down the line.

Still, I'm glad that the virtual keyboard is fully intact, while the mostly stock implementation of Android is sure to please hardcore Google fans.

What about the battery life and camera experience? Well, BlackBerry's touting a 22-hour mixed usage scenario for the Priv (it features a 3410mAh battery) for one. But we'll put both the battery life and 18-megapixel camera to the test in the coming weeks.

Published: 07:15 15-02-2016

Posted by on February 15, 2016.

Categories: Features, Technology

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Updated: 22:42 21-May-2018