BlackBerry Priv review: The smartphone BlackBerry should have made years ago

Price when reviewed

We need to talk about BlackBerry. Just a few years ago, the company could do no wrong: its smartphones were popular with business customers – and thanks to BBM, they were popular with younger customers too.

But since then, BlackBerry’s smartphone business has gradually fizzled away. Things briefly looked up with the unique-looking Passport – released around this time last year – but it felt like BlackBerry’s last roll of the dice.

That is until the BlackBerry Priv, a phone that can only be described as BlackBerry’s last, last chance.

Apart from the odd name, the Priv is the smartphone BlackBerry ought to have built years ago. It runs Android, so it’s able to take advantage of that platform’s apps and mature operating system, and combine them with BlackBerry’s traditional strengths – a hardware keyboard, and clever messaging and security software.

Design and screen

But can the design persuade the doubters? It certainly makes a good start. After indulging its sense of the absurd with last year’s Passport, the Priv takes things back to basics – in terms of its shape, at least. It’s a rectangular smartphone, just like all the rest, and sports a large, sharp 5.4in 2,560 x 1,440 AMOLED display that’s curved at the edges.

Switch it on and the screen makes a great first impression. It’s AMOLED, so you know it’s going to be at least decent, but the contrast is incredible and the colours vibrant and intensely saturated.

Its brightness isn’t the best I’ve seen, only reaching a maximum of 344cd/m2, where Samsung has found a way to boost its AMOLED screens up far above the 500cd/m2 mark. However, most of the time you’ll have little complaint – you might only find the screen tricky to read in really bright conditions. So if you work in a desert, this probably won’t be the best phone for you.

With the screen switched off, the Priv doesn’t look too bad, either. The screen’s curved edges lend the phone an exotic look akin to the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and the rear is clad in rubberised plastic with a carbon-weave finish.

However, it’s a very big phone for the screen size. It feels large and unwieldy in the hand, is thicker than most at 9.4mm from front to rear – and that’s without taking into account the camera bulge – and it’s very, very heavy. At 192g, in fact, the Priv nearly as heavy as the gigantic Passport, and that’s saying something. I’m also not keen on the sharp corners, which I found had a tendency to catch awkwardly on the lining of my pockets – not a problem if you keep yours in an inside jacket pocket or handbag, but it’s certainly a point to bear in mind if you habitually stow your phone in a jeans front pocket.

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