Ah Blackberry, for many of us, just saying the name of the former mobile phone great leaves us with a sense of nostalgia. Before smartphones were called smartphones there was Blackberry. Blackberry combined a decent sized screen with a decent sized Qwerty keyboard as well as internet access via Wi-Fi or through your operator. You could separate your personal contacts from your business contacts, send e-mail easily and quickly thanks to the keyboard and have an all-round great mobile experience.
Until the iPhone came along.
Since then Blackberry (as well as other competitors it must be said) have made a number of bad business decisions combined with the roaring and unpredictable success of single screen smartphones. Today then marks a rapid shift for Blackberry which could well be the end of an era and the beginning of a new one or the last role of the dice from a company who should never have been in this position in the first place.
Meet the Blackberry Priv.
Privacy and Apps
The Priv is Blackberry’s first venture on to the Android ecosystem and, upon first look it seems like they have made the port to Android well. Blackberry has not rocked the boat too much with Priv. Essentially the Android architecture has been left intact but for a few tweaks here and there. The Priv utilises the current Android Lollipop OS with a view to offering a Marshmallow update in the near future.
Mobile app developers will rejoice at the ability to build apps for the new Blackberry device as they would be able to with any Android device. As mentioned before, many people still certainly hold a soft spot for Blackberry and, among business people of the early mobile generation this move to Android may just be enough to return to the device.
The few tweaks that Android does offer are positive ones with security high on the company’s list of priorities which is something that is certainly lacking with other Android handsets. Pre-installed on the Priv is the DTEK app which basically tracks all of your installed apps and tells you how ‘healthy’ your phone is and what features of your phone certain apps are accessing. For instance if you have a torch app installed and it regularly checks your location it might be time to install a different app. Having that kind of access to information certainly puts the Priv at the forefront of Android security.
Another great Blackberry feature is the Hub which allows you, through one app, to access all of your communication so tweets, email, texts etc. This not only saves time but gives a level of organisation that other Android devices do not have. From a business perspective this gives Blackberry an edge over competitors.
Oh, and speaking of an edge, the device also has a Galaxy-esque side rim functionality which you can use for a variety of different functions.
You Snooze You Win?
While there are some great features to the Priv, not least of all the in-built sliding keyboard which also doubles as a track pad when browsing the web, you do wonder if it is too little too late for the company.
The Priv is squarely aimed at the high end of the market and, while anyone could use the device it is likely business users who will see the benefits of Blackberry’s features like being able to ‘snooze’ messages to reply to them later. The poor front facing camera, while detracting from selfie lovers should not really put off business users for whom the ease of access to information and the organisation of their e-mail and other communication channels is of greater priority.
It is safe to say that mobile app development on previous Blackberry devices have been slim to none. In the same way that Windows Phone, despite an impressive OS, has failed to gain traction in the marketplace Blackberry suffered and stuttered and even alienated its previous loyal business audience.
Apps will go some way to solve this problem. With business users now having access to Evernote or Microsoft Office as they would with any other Android device perhaps the Blackberry Hub will draw users back to the company.
Blackberry has set a modest target of 5m users in its first year for Priv which it may well be able to achieve especially if corporations do start to come on board whether through nostalgia or because the Priv offers what their business needs.
The verdict is certainly still out on Blackberry but if this is to be one last hurrah for the company as a hardware manufacturer it can at least go out with its head held high. The Priv might not be for everyone, but it might be something for enough people to be a success.