After a few weeks testing the software with a select group of beta participants, BlackBerry is finally rolling out the Android Marshmallow update for the PRIV from today. It comes with all the usual Marshmallow features, as well as some performance improvements and a handful of additional features for BlackBerry’s custom UI, keyboard and apps.
As with every Android Marshmallow device, the BlackBerry PRIV gets Doze mode, which dramatically reduces power consumption when a device is in standby, and hasn’t been used for some time. It also gets the more in-depth granular app permissions which let you control which individual aspects of your phone’s hardware and software any app can have access to. Whether that’s the microphone, camera, contacts or messages (for example) you can choose permissions and alter them later on in the settings menu.
With BlackBerry’s PRIV, the company made use of these and implemented its own added security measures, letting you control them by using the built-in DTEK app. You can choose which apps get access to your personal data, since many still ask for it even when it’s not required for the app to run correctly. What’s more, the BlackBerry Hub now features S/MIME support, allowing users to digitally sign and encrypt emails.
Moving away from security, BBerry has also enhanced its keyboards for better predictive typing, accuracy and control. The biggest update is undoubtedly the ability to use gesture typing on both the physical and software keyboard. Users can swipe the fingers from key to key, similar to the method used by virtual third party keyboards like Swype or SwiftKey. There are also new, better word predictions which can not only detect where you place your fingers and change predictions based on that, but also learn words with numbers and offer name suggestions. PRIV users get access to more than 200 new, updated emoji and can activate more precise ‘Cursor Control’ on the physical keyboard too.
In addition, notifications and the Hub have seen something of a refresh. During calls, a floating phone indicator appears on screen when a call is active. It shows up green when active and not muted, and yellow when active and muted. The company has also added a handful of popular apps to those which can show notifications inside the Hub. Instagram, Skype, Slack and Pinterest can now have notifications show in BlackBerry Hub, allowing users to better manage more notifications in a single space.
Other, perhaps more minor, updates include the fact that pop-up widgets are now turned on by default for new users, and more simple gestures have been added to set a default home screen, delete a home screen or remove apps. Users will also be able to organize apps and widgets in to Recent, Personal and Work sections more easily.
Lastly, while the camera hardware can’t be improved, BlackBerry has added the option to shoot video in 24fps at resolutions of 4k, 1080p or 720p for a ‘more cinematic feel’. What’s more, videos can be captured at 120fps for ‘smooth’ audio-free slow motion playback at 30fps.
All in all, it’s a healthy bundle of updates for the PRIV, and is pretty hefty in size too. As part of the beta testing team, my most recent update arrived yesterday afternoon and weighed in at almost 1.8GB. On the plus side, it did come with May’s security update which hasn’t even arrived on the Nexus yet.