I wanted to say that I've been waiting for this opportunity for months, but in all honesty, it's been a heck of a lot longer than that. Years, really—ever since BlackBerry (nee RIM) first ceded it's spot at the top of the smartphone heap, first to Apple and then Google.
The Android BlackBerry has long felt like an inevitability for the Canadian company—well, either an Android phone or a stubborn death. It's hard not to get too caught up in the too-little, too-late echo chamber before even playing with the handset, but let's keep politics out of this for a moment to say that, at first touch, at least, it feels like the company is back in the game.
Naturally, the keyboard is still intact on the BlackBerry Priv—take away the company's prioprietary OS and that was really users' primary complaint as they jumped ship for touchscreen pastures. No matter how much haptic feedback you jam into a phone, there's just no replacing the physical keyboard.
The handset takes a cue from earlier Android devices, hiding the QWERTY beneath a slider. It's not the nicest physical keyboard I've felt on a phone—that distinction belongs to other BlackBerry forebearers—but the Priv's is pretty solid, along with the added bonus of doubling as a scroll bar when you slid your fingers across it.
Not surprisingly, it takes some getting used to, particularly with my meaty digits, but as the BlackBerry rep happily (and revealing pointed out), so did those initial touchscreens. And, thankfully, there's a big bright screen here as well, for those times when it's just easier to type that way.
The Priv feels solid and is surprisingly light. It's also, thankfully, not too top heavy—a big complaint with earlier slider models. It's a bummer that BlackBerry waited this long to get into the stock Android camp, but perhaps the time is just right, as smartphone industrial design has advanced to a point where a noncumbersome slider is a real possibility.
BlackBerry has also thankfully maintained something close to stock Android, while sprinkling familiar software touches like BBM and the company's security features on top, rather than attempting to bend Google's mobile operating system to its UI whims.
More impressions coming as soon as we get a review unit of our very own.