Why I am excited about Blackberry’s Android device, Priv


Blackberry, the Canadian smartphone maker has for long prided itself as offering the best hardware and software as far as mobile devices go. In addition, Blackberry is the leader in mobile enterprise solution that incorporates ne plus ultra security solutions, privacy and productivity tools. For a company trusted in ensuring the privacy of US President Barrack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Kardashians as far as communication goes, Blackberry has been terrible in keeping news of their soon to be launched Android device under wraps.

Once the cock of the walk but now the feather duster, Blackberry’s rise and fall is the stuff business schools should inculcate into their curriculum on what happens when firms fail to adapt to market conditions.  2013 was a difficult year for Blackberry with problems emanating from the late launch of the Blackberry 10 OS the successor of the very popular Blackberry OS 7.  Amidst the delays, Blackberry was facing an emerging threat which was the increasing proliferation of Apple iPhones launched three years earlier and the emergence of the Android operating system. These two were eating into the share market of Blackberry that was declining at a first rate.  Blackberry launched the Blackberry Z10 and Q10, two phones that failed to pick up. Initially, the phones received positive reviews from Tech blogs and major magazines but failed to live up the expectations of most consumers who had since, moved to rival operating systems.

Blackberry has since 2013 spent most of its time playing catch up, which has also involved leadership changes. Blackberry has also taken to consolidation of its core business such as BBM, enterprise solution and software service. However, smartphones still account for a large share of Blackberry’s revenues and the company has moved in the last few years to avert the declines. First was the launch of the Blackberry Passport, a square form factor device meant to rival the flagships of the moment. Next was the launch of the Blackberry  Classic, a 3.5 inch device which was meant to resonate with hardcore Blackberry users, who dearly missed their physical keyboards. These devices did not give Crackberry the much needed traction to catch up.

The announcement that Blackberry was set to launch an Android device evoked bitter-sweet feelings. I felt that Blackberry was abandoning tradition and venturing onto a platform where virtually no OEM is making money. However, deep down I knew this was the magic bullet Blackberry needed if they were to stay in the smartphone business. I have keenly followed the reception of the never-ending and nearly annoying teasers from Blackberry with regards to the device, and I report its been positive. Of course there have been naysayers from struggling Android fanboys, but we all know the jerks who hate from outside. Myself and many others are excited about the Blackberry Priv ( Blackberry has changed the name from Oslo to Slider and now Priv meaning Privacy and Privilege) but whats there to be excited about?

Real Productivity Tool

Today, for the first time in almost 2 years, I ditched my Blackberry for an Android device. The Huawei P8 will take over my life for a few weeks before i yield to home base. The P8 is a great device, has a superbly powerful camera that could shoot a sequel out of a meow match of Sally’s & Chenze’s cats, the design is remarkably sleek. Its gorgeous and performs well enough with the Kirin 930 processor combined with  3 GB RAM. From the images released by the guys at Waterloo, the Blackberry Priv is has a great design and promises real power as seen in the specifications. The Blackberry Priv will spot a 5.4 inch Quad HD (2560 x 1,440 pixels; 544 ppi) display, a Hexacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, 32 GB internal storage and 3 GB RAM coupled up with 18 megapixel main sensor; 5 megapixel sensor on the front. It will have a  3,410mAh battery and run on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. Away from the specifications, Blackberry is well known for its enterprise capabilities ranging from security features to productivity tools. Combining the power of the BB enterprise suite and the versatility of android, users especially in enterprise and government have a real productivity tool. Like I mentioned on the Techweez Forum, we might just have a Lamborgini Sesto Elemento in a smartphone. 

Ex-BB users

As earlier mentioned, Blackberry rode roughshod as far as smartphones go. Many smartphone users on Android and iOS were originally Blackberry users who run out of gas and altogether changed dalliance.  This legion of Ex-Blackberry users on Android users are yet to find a stable home on Android be it at Samsung, HTC, Huawei or even Sony. Blackberry finally has a device that will likely appeal to these former users and on the right platform. In addition to the power specifications, the Blackberry Priv has been able to add a physical keyboard, possibly seeking to invoke nostalgia in these former users. I think many former users will troop back in droves and this might be a gamble pays just enough for Blackberry. Blackberry’s Achilles heel has been the lack of apps on Blackberry World store. Efforts to patch these gaps through partnership with Amazon bore no real fruits. Running Android means The Priv will have access to a legion of android applications automatically addressing these shortfalls.  I think Blackberry might just have it on this front.

Security, Security, Security on Android

According to a study by Cambridge University researchers, nearly 9 out of 10 Android devices are exposed to a critical vulnerability that puts user communications and personal data at risk.  Android being an Open source operating system, the threats are compounded. With that said, Blackberry has long prided itself in providing ultra secure platforms through its operating system. In introducing Priv, Blackberry strip down Android to its bare minimums to ensure the device met Blackberry’s security standards.

Blackberry included  its hardware root of trust, a unique manufacturing process that injects cryptographic keys into the device hardware ensuring its entire platform was secured. The device also includes verified boot and secure bootchain to verify every layer of the device from hardware to OS to applications have not been tampered with. Blackberry also included a hardened Linux kernel with numerous patches and configuration changes to improve security. The device also has full disk encryption on by default meaning rooting or flashing a custom ROM will not be possible. Looks like we have the first ulta-secure Android device.

I think Blackberry is about to get its groove back with the Priv!