BlackBerry's new PRIV smartphone may run the Android OS, but it's still a true BlackBerry, thanks to these four recognizable features.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
The much-anticipated BlackBerry PRIV, BlackBerry’s first Android phone, is now available in the United States, and it’s sure to rekindle some old flames for former BlackBerry lovers.
But is it a BlackBerry … or an Android phone? Fact is, PRIV is a Frankenstein-esque mash-up of both. However, BlackBerry loyalists will be pleased to learn that the unique new smartphone still very much feels like a genuine BlackBerry, thanks in no small part to the following four features — all of which are detailed in the video above.
1) Thumbs on with PRIV’s ‘physical’ QWERTY keyboard
The PRIV keyboard takes a bit of getting used to, because the device form factor is … different. But the keyboard also doesn’t disappoint. It’s a good size, and it has many of the same gesture and swipe features found in the BlackBerry Passport keyboard, including the capability to swipe to scroll through lists and Web pages, and swipe up on the keyboard to select on-screen text predictions.
2) BlackBerry Hub and PRIV
PRIV’s central inbox, the BlackBerry Hub, will be familiar to any BlackBerry 10 user, because it’s almost identical to the original BlackBerry Hub. It lets you view various accounts in a single interface, or quickly drill down into individual accounts, and you can color code different apps and services so a quick glance shows you what’s what. And an integrated calendar feature lets you dial-in to meetings with a couple of taps on invite pop-ups, which is one of my favorite Hub goodies.
BlackBerry fans will also be glad to hear that the majority of BlackBerry messaging keyboard shortcuts still work in the Hub: you still hit T to move to the top of a list; B to move to the bottom; N to jump to the next day, and P to jump to the past one; U for the next unread message; F to forward one; and R to reply.
The biggest change to the Hub is the way you access it. Instead of sliding a finger up from the bottom of the screen and then over to “peek” into your Hub, you now can simply click the Hub icon, or drag up and then over to select the Hub option.
3) Colorful, customizable notification LED
When you setup new accounts within your BlackBerry Hub, you can designate specific colors for the notification LED, so they match the color code you use in your inbox. It’s one of my favorite things about the PRIV, because it lets you know which messages or alerts are waiting for you with a quick glance at the blinking light. And it’s 100 percent old-school BlackBerry.
For example, I have my work email set to red, my Gmail is yellow and my personal text messages are purple. If I’m partaking in a few after-work libations with buddies, and I see that blinking red light, I may choose to ignore it. On the other hand, if I see a purple pulse, and I know the missus is expecting me home (or more importantly, expecting the groceries I’m supposed to pick up), I’ll be more likely to check my phone. (Maybe.)
The LED changes colors when new alerts come in, but unfortunately it only shows one color at a time and does not cycle through colors, to show you that you have multiple alert types.
4) The BlackBerry ‘Splat’
The circular, red BlackBerry-message-alert-icon thingee, aka, the “splat,” delivers a big amount of BlackBerry branding and nostalgia. And it is splattered all over PRIV’s Android OS. It’s on the lock screen when you have new notifications. It’s on individual app icons when new alerts are waiting.
It’s small but nice touch from BlackBerry, and one you won’t find on any other Android phones.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.