BlackBerry’s upcoming PRIV handset isn’t this year’s best kept secret. From briefly showing off the phone’s hardware at MWC back in June, to announcing its name and availability in a recent earnings press release, the Canadian tech company seemingly isn’t too concerned with the device’s secrecy. Before the announcement was made last week, we’d already seen several unofficial leaks, both photographic and video.
Last Friday, John Chen gave an BNN’s Amber Kanwar an official first look at the Android-powered BlackBerry PRIV…
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The name PRIV stands for ‘Privacy’ and ‘Privilege’, as was previously revealed. Sadly, unlike earlier video leaks, John Chen’s demo doesn’t go so well. He notes that this is a ‘demo’ unit, and doesn’t show much of the software. There’s no look at the custom ‘hub’ the company built for Android, or the tweaked notification drawer we’re expecting. In fact, the one app he does try to load (Chrome) hasn’t been set up and so that demo doesn’t last long at all. Clearly, this is a CEO used to his own operating system and not Google’s.
Perhaps the one enlightening part of the interview was at the end when Kanwar asks about adopting Android as an OS. She asks whether this is the phone to get BlackBerry back in to the game. While Chen thinks BlackBerry 10 is great, and many people love it, he acknowledges that his platform still struggles on the apps front. Adopting Android for the PRIV means customers will be able to buy a physical QWERTY-equipped smartphone, with the latest specs, and still have a huge selection of quality apps to choose from and access to Google’s Play Services.
While Android may be a new experience for Chen, or one he hasn’t been familiar with for very long, it could be the one thing BlackBerry needs to regain its relevance in the consumer market. BlackBerry fans will continue to buy BlackBerries, and the Classic and Passport have been well received. But that loyal segment of consumers won’t help the company grow again. By offering the PRIV, customers will have a real alternative to other Android phones and — for the first time in years — will have an Android-powered smartphone with a great keyboard. Let’s just hope it performs better in real life than the demo version did in the interview.