BlackBerry has been in a slowly declining slump for about 8 years at this point. Ever since the introduction of the Apple iPhone in 2007, BlackBerry has been trying to figure out how to keep their head in the game. Do they stick with the original candybar form factor that had worked so well for them over the years? Do they shift towards touchscreen technology? Do they give up the physical keyboard entirely for one of the newer slab-style designs?
In the end, the answer to all of them ended up being yes at one point or another. The unfortunate aspect is that BlackBerry kept making the wrong decision at the wrong time. When they decided to keep up with the candybar phones with physical keyboards and trackpads, mobile users had already begun the shift towards full touchscreen devices with virtual keyboards. Simply adding a touchscreen to the candybar form factor, like the Bold 9930 exhibited, wasn’t enough. Adding apps didn’t work (albeit there wasn’t much there for BlackBerry initially). Finally, they decided to take BlackBerry in a more modern direction and remade the entire OS, which we now know as BlackBerry 10. They even eventually included the ability to sideload Android applications, as well as officially supporting the Amazon App Store. None of these decisions worked either.
BlackBerry continued to change things up, create new products, and try to woo customers back to the BlackBerry they once knew and loved. The BlackBerry Z10 and Z30 were less than original when it came to overall design, but the BlackBerry Q10 kept things classic while still having the benefit of running on BlackBerry 10, with the nearly identical BlackBerry Classic coming out just one year later. At the very least, they were trying to appease to both types of smartphone users, which was probably the smartest decision at the time. The highest headlining BlackBerry product to reach the market in recent years is the bizarre (yet well-received) BlackBerry Passport. Even then, though, the Passport’s victory for BlackBerry is small in comparison to how the two largest platforms, iOS and Android, are performing.
Throughout all of these changes, it has been heavily suggested on multiple occasions that the company should partner up with the open-source OS Android. With BlackBerry’s exceptional security and Android’s popularity, the two could make a very powerful impact on the mobile world. For years this suggestion was ignored, until the BlackBerry PRIV was recently, and finally, announced.
The PRIV is another smartphone that BlackBerry has created with a unique design. While we don’t know everything about the PRIV, we have been given some specs straight from BlackBerry themselves. The PRIV has dual curved edges on either side of the 5.4-inch display, like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. While “edged” displays aren’t completely new, it is still a relatively new idea to the industry. What is unique to the PRIV is the slide-out physical keyboard, which comes out vertically rather than horizontally. On a phone with a screen this big, that is new.
The PRIV is also stated to feature a Schneider-Kreuznach certified camera (and while I don’t know much about cameras, a Google search leads me to believe that this certification is typically something associated with good standalone cameras) and “extraordinary audio quality”. If true, this could be a great boost for the device as well; BlackBerry hasn’t really been known to put much, if any, focus on the camera quality or the sound, and both of these features are hot topics in the smartphone market today.
The BlackBerry PRIV looks like the perfect manifestation of what a BlackBerry manufactured Android device should be. It cherry picks the great qualities of BlackBerry and uses the popular Android platform. While there’s not yet any indication of the price, if it’s anywhere in the same ballpark as the Nexus 5X or 6P (more likely towards the 6P) then I think the PRIV has a real shot at becoming something worth advancing in the future. Even I’m considering the device, and I’m not typically a fan with phones larger than a 4.7-inch display.
But I think another part of the draw to the PRIV is my speculation that, should the PRIV not work out like many are hoping it does, I can’t imagine that BlackBerry would keep trying to work on smartphones for much longer. I could definitely be wrong, but if the PRIV doesn’t work for BlackBerry then I honestly don’t know what could.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the PRIV? Do you have your sights set on this unique (and perhaps once in a lifetime) device? Let us know in the comments below!