BlackBerry yesterday posted a walk-through of the features of the PRIV, the company’s first Android phone, and the device that some may think could be the last the company ever makes.
The PRIV features a slide-out physical keyboard plus a virtual keyboard with the company’s “flick-to-type” feature, a screen that is curved on both sides, the BlackBerry Hub (which is one of the the things the company got really, really right with BlackBerry 10), and a battery the company describes as “colossal” and claims can handle 22.5 hours of “mixed use”. BlackBerry says the camera, which is made by Schneider-Kreuznach® is much better and also adds 4K video recording at 30 frames-per-second.
But the biggest difference between the PRIV and other BlackBerry devices, of course, is the operating system. This device runs on Android 5.1.1, which is also known as “Lollipop”.
One of the most interesting things about this PRIV walk through is that BlackBerry seems to be attempting to make its security features graphical and apparent to users, rather than just buried into the build. The company highlighted DTEK, a system that monitors the overall security of the device with a simple red/yellow/green meter and charts a plan of action based on the security result.
BlackBerry is hoping it can sell PRIV to Android users who are concerned with security, but in the past that tact has failed to lure consumers away from devices that are less concerned with privacy, such as the iPhone. BlackBerry’s David Kleidermacher recently cited a recent study from researchers at Cambridge University that found almost nine out of 10 Android devices are exposed to a critical vulnerability that puts customer’s communications and personal data at risk.
“It’s not a good situation,” said Kleidermacher. “However, we at BlackBerry think we can do better.”
BlackBerry made the PRIV available to pre-order a few days ago. It began taking orders for an unlocked version today for $899 in Canada ($699 in the U.S.) and began directing Rogers customers to pre-orders on that carrier’s site.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen has increasingly non-committal about BlackBerry’s hardware business, choosing instead to focus on areas he feels the company has more runway and less pricing pressure, including the Mobile Device Management/Enterprise Mobility Management space (MDM/EMM) and in the the Internet of Things marketplace. Chen recently suggested the company could stop making phones altogether if overall sales didn’t hit the five-million mark.
The BlackBerry boss has already gone on record that the company will never again compete at the low end of the market because he sees to much margin compression there.
“It’ll be a high-end phone that you can walk into AT&T and get it, as a professional,” he he told Bloomberg in a recent interview. “It’s hard to compete with Chinese and Indian manufacturers for the lower end of the market. The low-end phone is not BlackBerry’s sweet spot.”
Some say the writing is on the wall for BlackBerry’s hardware business.
“I do think this is their final experiment. It has all the trappings of a last gasp,” Daniel Bader, the editor-in-chief of device website MobileSyrup told the CBC recently.
Below: PRIV Feature Overview