The BlackBerry Priv, released at the end of November, is BlackBerry’s first commercial Android device. When launched in the United States, the Priv was an exclusive for one of the two larger carriers, AT&T, for the first couple of months. Now that the exclusive arrangement is over, we’ve seen other carriers adopt the device: T-Mobile US and Sprint swiftly joined AT&T in offering the Priv, but despite a device destined for Verizon going through the FCC right before Christmas, Verizon Wireless have been relatively quiet on the subject until the last few days.At the time the rumours were that Verizon would be picking the device up in March and this has now come true. The silence has now ended and the carrier is offering the BlackBerry Priv for either $30 a month or $720 up front. For the money, there is no mention of the wireless charging feature that AT&T’s BlackBerry Privs have. Verizon’s Priv does not support Wi-Fi calling but the website states that this technology will be added via a software update once available.
When constructing the BlackBerry Priv, BlackBerry used high end components in a similar manner to LG’s flagship device for 2015, the G4. The Priv is based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 System-on-Chip rather than the flagship 810: the 808 is a big.LITTLE processor with two clusters of application processors. The lower performance tier consists of a quad core 1.4 GHz cluster of ARM Cortex-A53 processors. The higher performance tier consists of a dual core, 1.8 GHz ARM Cortex-A57 application processor. The Snapdragon 808 is backed up by 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage, plus a MicroSD card slot. There’s a QHD 5.4-inch AMOLED panel, a 3,410 mAh battery, an 18MP rear camera and something customers expect from BlackBerry: a physical keyboard. In the case of the Priv, the device features a slide-out, touch-sensitive keyboard that may be used as a track pad or as a keyboard. BlackBerry have also hardened the software against hacking to keep devices secure.
The BlackBerry Priv was released running Android 5.1 and BlackBerry have used a “stock plus” approach: the user interface looks similar to a stock Android device but BlackBerry have included a number of their applications onto the device to improve the user experience. Furthermore, BlackBerry have kept up with Google’s regular monthly software vulnerability patches whilst working on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, which is due shortly. Whilst some industry observers will explain that it is easy for BlackBerry to keep their single device up to date, this is their first consumer facing Android-powered smartphone and as such is new territory for the Canadian device manufacturer.