BlackBerry’s Priv Puzzles the Tech World

BlackBerry on Friday released its Priv smartphone, its first Android-based device.

The Android 5.1.1 Lollipop slider is driven by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexa-core processor and an Adreno 418 GPU.

It’s stocked with 3 GB of low-power RAM and 32 GB of storage. There’s an 18-MP shooter on its back side and a 2-MP chat cam on its face.

BlackBerry wouldn’t release an Android-based device unless it found a way to secure it properly, CEO John Chen said earlier this year.

To lock down the Android OS to its liking, BlackBerry baked in its own goods. That should make the phone appealing to BlackBerry’s base, according to Charles King, principal analyst forPund-IT.

“The fact that the BB Priv supports both the company’s traditional OS and Android should make the phone a solid option for existing BB customers who want be able to choose from a wider range of apps,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“It’s also a good choice for consumers and businesses that prefer physical keyboards to the virtual versions on most other phones. Those are both good audiences to play to for now,” King said.

The Priv, like just about everything BlackBerry releases, isn’t for everyone, however.

What Critics Are Saying

It’s been a mixed bag of reviews so far, with some critics apparently encouraged by what BlackBerry cooked up and others stopping just shy of eulogizing the company’s handset business.

While it offers a more secure version of Android, the Priv doesn’t pack enough of a punch, Digital Trends’ Ted Kritsonis said.

“Every phone BlackBerry launches seems to be a cement block attached to the company leg, slowing its shuffle towards the precipice. The Priv is no different, and can’t be labeled as a savior,” he wrote.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern was impressed with the hardware.

“Typing on real keys with a phablet-sized 5.4-inch screen towering over them is odd at first, but once I found my acrobatic balance, my fingers were scurrying around at up to 60 words per minute. That’s about 20% faster than I type on my iPhone (though still 15% slower than on the BlackBerry Classic’s larger, wider, backlit keyboard).

Android can’t save BlackBerry, concluded Engadget’s Daniel Cooper. “BlackBerry is probably done as a phone manufacturer.”

“Early reviews of the Priv appear mostly positive, and I think BB deserves kudos for moving boldly in embracing Android,” King said.

“That may, however, indicate how much trouble the company’s native platform is facing. Overall, Android could offer BB a solid lifeline, but whether the company can pull itself to safety remains to be seen,” he said.

Rebound or Outbound?

The company is taking what some analysts believe to be its last shot at the handsets market, as Chen has said he would pull the company out of the handset business if it failed to find sustainable success.

The world has been watching BlackBerry struggle ever since Android and iOS emerged, so now it’s taking another shot and hoping for the best with its move with Android, noted wireless analystJeff Kagan.

“It now looks like they have reached the point where they just aren’t getting enough forward movement so they are taking a new path toward Android,” he told TechNewsWorld. “This is good; however, I think it would have stood a much better chance of being successful if they had done this several years ago.”

BlackBerry could find sustainable success if it can entice government and businesses with its odd concoction of BlackBerry 10 and Android 5, according to Kagan.

“We’ll have to wait and see whether they can ring the bell or not,” he said. “If this works, it could be a path for BlackBerry out of the dark hole they have dug themselves into. If it doesn’t work, then I just don’t know what other options they have left.”

Quinten Plummer is a longtime technology reporter and an avid PC gamer who explored local news for a few years, covering law enforcement and government beats, before returning to writing about things run by ones and zeros and the people who make them. If it pushes pixels or improves lives, he wants to learn all he can about it.

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