Our long-term 2016 re-review of the Blackberry Priv takes another look at Blackberry’s first Android phone, a full year after it was first released. Is the Priv still a solid all-round Android mobile twelve months on, and is it worth picking up – or should you wait for the Blackberry DTEK60? Here’s our in-depth re-review.
Blackberry’s Priv was a serious surprise when it emerged at the end of last year. Not only was it the first BB blower to come packing Google’s Android OS, but it turned out to be one of the best Android phones of 2015. That’s mostly thanks to a winning combination of premium hardware, smart security features and the fact that Blackberry mashed up Android with the best bits of its own BB10 OS – to great effect.
I really, really like the Priv. I’ve used it as my full-time handset on and off for the past twelve months, mostly because of Blackberry’s unique and enjoyable additions to the Android framework. But is it still a worthy purchase, twelve months down the line? Here’s our in-depth Blackberry Priv 2016 re-review.
Blackberry Priv 2016 Re-Review: Design
I remember thinking that the Priv was a bit of a beast when I first reviewed it, rocking a mighty 5.4-inch screen. Of course, these days that’s positively average, with lots of 5.5-inch mobiles hitting the UK in 2016. Of course, the Priv is still undeniably bulky because of the QWERTY keyboard that’s hidden away beneath the screen, not to mention a heavy little bugger. And one-handed use is definitely a chore.
Thankfully the Priv is still a lot more comfortable to handle and carry in your trouser pocket than the bizarrely square Passport, Blackberry’s infamous handset from 2014. And as I’m now used to super-sized smartphones, it doesn’t seem as crazy-big as before.
That physical keyboard is perfectly fine and will certainly appease Blackberry fans from the company’s glory days. However, I personally never use it whenever I return to the Priv – and here’s why. I wasn’t sad to see the QWERTY keyboard slashed from the DTEK50, and I’m looking forward to the new premium DTEK60 – the natural successor to the Priv – which also scraps the physical board for a more slimline finish.
Coming to the Priv from most other 2016 phones, I definitely miss the ability to quickly and effortlessly unlock your handset with a quick tap of a fingerprint sensor. Of course, the Priv has plenty of great security features built in, while you can always use Android’s Trusted Places/Devices feature to bypass PIN entry if you like. But considering the Priv’s high cost, it’s a shame there isn’t a built-in sensor.
Blackberry Priv 2016 Re-Review: Features and OS
Blackberry’s first Android phone didn’t simply push out with a bog-standard vanilla Google experience. Rather, BB has added plenty of its own impressively smart features – essentially most of the better elements of BB10 OS. Check out our feature on the ten ways Blackberry’s Priv improves Android for a more detailed analysis.
I still think that the Blackberry Hub is a great addition to Google’s OS, gathering all of your notifications across your messaging and social media accounts into one handy place. Those location-based reminders which can be linked to specific messages are great too, something that Gmail could really do with.
I also make frequent use of the Priv’s Quick Actions shortcuts, to add little notes and reminders. And the Productivity Tab is perfect for keeping organised, offering an instant look at your calendar and to-do lists with just a flick of your finger (although admittedly this could also be handled with Android’s standard widgets).
Security-conscious users will also be comforted by the excellent DTEK software which comes pre-installed on the Priv. Your important data is encrypted by default to keep it out of the hands of thieves, while you also have the option of seeing the access privileges of each of your apps. Of course, that’s now standard for Android phones since Android Marshmallow, but the Priv was ahead of the curve here.
Blackberry Priv 2016 Re-Review: Performance and battery life
One year on and the Priv is still a decent performer, able to run the latest Android games with a solid frame rate. The Snapdragon 808 processor isn’t quite as nippy as the chips stashed in rival flagship phones, so I do still see the occasional little stutter during everyday use. It’s nothing major though, and I’ve only experience one ‘proper’ crash since first booting up the phone.
There have been some reports of Priv handsets getting rather toasty, but I’ve had no real issues with my review sample. The rubbery rear did get a little warm along the right edge when the phone was first set up, as it was downloading app updates non-stop, while extended gaming periods also made the back quite warm. But it certainly never got hot and I never saw any performance problems.
As for battery life, I still consistently get a full 24 hours of life per charge, so usually end up charging the phone in the morning at work. I don’t miss the lack of support for wireless charging, although Type-C USB would have been nice as I always manage to try and jam the cable in the wrong way around.
Blackberry Priv 2016 Re-Review: Screen and media
I’m still a big fan of the Priv’s 5.4-inch screen, which boasts crisp visuals thanks to the Quad HD 2560×1440 resolution. And like the Galaxy S7 Edge, the very edges of the screen dip away for a funky curved effect.
Visuals aren’t just super sharp, they’re also pleasingly bright and just as vibrant as those put out by the Galaxy S7’s Super AMOLED screen. Viewing angles are also strong, while the panel is easily spacious enough to comfortably kick back with some Netflix for a couple of hours.
You get 32GB of storage space to play with, which is plenty for carrying around a decent-sized media collection as well as loads of apps. And of course that can be quickly and easily expanded using a microSD memory card.
Blackberry Priv 2016 Re-Review: Cameras
I’ve also continued to be very impressed by the Priv’s highly dependable 18-megapixel camera, which captures great shots in almost any conditions. For my full thoughts and photo samples, check out my Priv camera review.
Blackberry Priv 2016 Re-Review: Verdict
The Blackberry Priv may be rather bulky and still not exactly cheap, but it’s still a great piece of mobile hardware and a solid user experience, thanks to Blackberry’s well-considered tweaks. That spacious and super-sharp screen will appease any media fans, while the camera holds up well here in 2016.
So is it still a five star phone? Well, that bulky design and the lack of fingerprint sensor tech is a shame, but there’s little else to complain about. If you’re a BB fan, you certainly can’t go wrong – but the DTEK60 is just around the corner, so we’d suggest holding out for that one if you can.