Blackberry Priv – Bought one after all… (post is likely to become a sort of review)


Well I bought one after all, as it was available including customs and delivery for roughly $400 to Denmark.

The keys ARE tiny, and the device HUGE but I think I might end up finding it a lesser bad compromise that an Iphone+keyboard-case.

As I wrote here I was initially very excited about this device, but cooled down quite a bit.

But as it was available on ebay as an unlocked AT&T model for $300 for a period (currently it is $400) I took the chance and bought one – despite the additional 50% (!!) in heavy shipping fees and customs… (it ended slightly over 3000DKK)

Despite that it is much wider, the better engineering (usability over design!!) gives a better grip than the Iphone 6 – that was a positive surprise!!

After playing with it a few hours, my initial feeling is that what I will miss the most is the omitted fingerprint reader. A REALLY silly omission on a device that claims to go for security, and has a base price about as overpriced as an Iphone….

Of course it would have been MUCH MUCH better if the keyboard was sliding sideways – but that is a lost battle I’m afraid – I wonder when TV will start broadcasting in square or portrait too, to accommodate this silly fashion…. /S

One REALY bad surprise is that the AT&T model offered NO security- NOR  Marshmallow-updates (see workaround below) currently, if you are not on AT&T sim/network, but there MIGHT be in the future: It is FINALLY possible to get OTA updates directly from BB  😀
One of the major points in getting a BB should be the tighter security, so really a drawback that the security -and 6.0 updates might never be available for non AT&T-users!!!!

It should be noted that it comes with all kinds of international (soft)key-layouts and vocabularies – even Danish. And yes there are even ways to get the national Danish characters on the physical keyboard too!


But back to the device it self. The hugeness of course means a large screen – and even in QHD. This is a bit overkill in my book, FHD would have been sufficient for almost all users, so the extra power needed to handle the higher resolution is just a waste, IMHO.

But sure images looks GREAT on it, and it got decent sunlight legibility though it would have been nice if it was slightly less glossy/reflective.

The back on the other hand gives a nice good grip. Personally I just HATE camera-protrusions, and would have preferred a flat back for the trade of a slightly thicker phone – this could have given us a user replaceable battery too… Or they could have made the protrusion as a band in full width, that could have made room for the missing fingerprint reader AND would allow steady desktop usage.


A cute little gimmick-use of the curved display-edge during charging:


A nice little detail, that at first look like a crazy designer in love with cars of the 1950ies, is the ‘chrome’ list-look below (and above the display).
Why is this nice? Well first of all, when placed top down, the screen it self will not touch a flat surface, but secondly the bottom list allows you to easily close the keyboard pulling this list down with the the thumb after using the keyboard (and similarly open it)

There is a nice demo-video preinstalled illustrating how gorgeous images can look on this device – it also demonstrates how nice it is with the mute button…whistle

A nice detail (that I guess is Lollipop and not BB?) is that automatic updates of apps are limited to IF the new version requires less or the same privileges.  Allowing people to think twice on updates requiring more privileges than they ought to – An example is Google street view, that suggest an update that would like to stick its nose into my identity, my photos, my camera, and my WiFi-info – In short “Thanks but NO thanks…” – I guess they will rename it from street VIEW to street EXPOSE next…..

Note that Marshmallow is now available, even for the AT&T model – if I can get it…
I ordered an AT&T sim, and hoped that this would be enough to trick it to fetch the upgrades though WiFi – unfortunately it was not…. It needs to be registered on their net too, to get it the official way hmm. I found a confirmation on that assumption here cry

ADD 2016-08-01. Found out that the Autoloader for Marshmallow IS available for AT&T – and others, so we CAN get it. Rather simple actually, just make sure you have a backup, and follow the guide here (you need to plug in the phablet of course):
You will need to wait a few minutes after the dos-box is finished, while the phablet seem to be booting for a looong time. After it is done, you have a factory reset device (and then re-enter basic info and restore your data – some can be restored by google-backup). NOTE Be aware that typically app-settings are NOT included even in third party backups. So if the app supports it save/export settings otherwise take suitable screendumps before your backup…

ADD 1016-10-18: Well BB and AT&T finally found a solution for OTA updates outsides. See official link. I just manually wiped and updated to the AAG873 October security update a few days ago though, So will have to wait a month to see it actually work…

So it is now on Marshmallow konservativ_woot ….a few days before Nougat is expected to be released….

ADD: 2016-08-26 They released the August security update AAG153, including Quadrooter patches. See this post

Though I assume I would still not get security updates OTA, I would need to do the same thing each time BUT this is not a fault of the device, but due to me being stingy buying a branded variant.

The “STV100-1” variant that AT&T have branded even supports wireless charging – though no charger is provided. Another variant “STV100-3” got even more LTE-bands but no wireless charging. See e.g. here and here. But you can buy them for less than £4, e.g. this elegant 6mm thin one. You should remember that roughly half the current is lost using wireless though, so if you got a 2A wall charger, your device will be charged by about 1A only, the rest is lost as heat.

UPDATE: After a few days of usage it is still a very positive experience – though it of course takes a while to change the habits when changing OS. So I do not expect to make anything like a real review until after at least a week

There is a quite good in depth review at GSMArena. It is a bit more negative than my experience though – perhaps some of all the issues they encountered have been ‘ironed out’ in the past half year?
Here is a in image of the display from their review (click to enlarge)


My Ricoh CX5 can not do quit as good as GSMAs microscope, but not that bad, here an excerpt from the user guide (click to enlarge):

And a crop:


If you look carefully at how the pixel-arrangement in a rhombus-shape seem distorted off-centre, it can be deduced that the red layer is at the bottom, followed by the green, and with the blue top-most

Have a look at this portion of my normal resolution test photoed of the display (by the faithful Ricoh) – click to enlarge:


Where the effect of the pentile pixel-arrangement can be seen. Note that the green can display true QHD (2560 x 1440), but the red struggles to do so in one direction (as blue in the other), as the subpixels are in a less dense grid (half the number of subpixels compared to a ‘standard’ 2×2 RGGB)

In their review GSMArena mentions that the screen does not go completely black. I tried to test this in a completely dark room, but can not see the difference between a black picture and a locked screen – so at least the level is below what the naked eye can see.
But if it really is still so, then it might be part of the explanation for the heavy battery drain when the (too) high resolution screen is active.
When playing around with stuff, the drain by the screen seems to typically be around five(!) times the sum of the drain by the all apps. (Screen set at 50% brightness)

Having used the phone for two weeks I’m still quite happy about it.

But I do REALLY miss the fingerprint reader. The “smart lock” and “trusted face” is in theory a good substitute, but it is actually quite hard to get it to unlock. The least bad I get if I keep the reflection of the eyes about at the edge of the display, and move the phone in a circular arc from about waist level to eye level (or vice versa) keeping the face parallel to the display, but it is still quite unstable, only works about 1 of 2-3 times!! But the movement apparently helps it to discard the background.

And YES, I have tried to “improve face-matching” about 100 times – and it is even hard to get it to recognise the face in this process. It either complains that it is too close or too far away, and needs to be held at an exact position. (…and to the funny ones, No, I’m not making a grimace like the site icon…)

To make it even more cumbersome to use, the whole minimal process is
1) Place the phone at the exactly correct distance and angle.
2) Press the (un)lock-button
3) Keep the relative position for a while, possibly while moving the phone and head
4) And IF it recognise the face, Swipe up

The last step is a completely superfluous nuisance. It is rather unlikely that I would carefully hold the phone at the correct awkward position AND press the lock-button AND wait, if I did not intend to unlock…. wallbash

Whether it recognise your face in step 3 can only bee seen by the difference of two almost identical horrible flat-designed icons (YES I detest the 1980ies computer graphics looking design)
Try to have a close look at these two images (click to enlarge) to spot the difference

PrivLocked PrivUnlocked

And if you have a hard time spotting it, here’s a blow-up of the bad icon – and how it COULD have looked to be useful – still with the same horrible flat design…

PrivUnlocked_Detail PrivUnlocked_Detail_corrected

Had it been the least user friendly, the unlocked one would be GREEN and the locked one red, orange or yellow…

While it tries recognising, the centre icon is replaced with an icon like the blue top right one – in the same grey colour to make it less user friendly of course… I do not think even aPple could have made this process worse…

konservativ_wootI have finally taken the decision to stay on the Priv, and gave away my Ip6. I hope I’ll never have to use Ios again…konservativ_woot

The HW-keyboard works surprisingly well even when using a language with more letters than there are keys for. The three Danish characters are treated as accented letters, so as an example press “Aro” to get the island “Ærø”. Of course this takes a little while to get used to, and gives a little extra ambiguities on short words, but it is MUCH better than some weird key-combinations or need to go through symbols!! 🙂

In a recent update they have improved the keyboard experience even further!!

They have added an ingenious functionality I have been missing for years

konservativ_wootMulti-language keyboardkonservativ_woot

This allows you to use the layout of one language, but predictions and corrections extended from one or more other ones.

It works better than I had dared hope for. It even gets that when you have been writing in one language, the next words are most likely to be in the same language, giving the other lesser priority. . It even uses this to find out which dictionary an added word is placed in. This is REALLY thought through! In practise this means you wont feel the difference when writing plain in one language, but if you need a word from the other language you could just use it.

I selected Danish as the primary, and English (UK) (matching the HW-keys) as a supporting language.

The main difference between primary and secondary languages is the displayed order of possible characters when you hold down a letter-key

For obvious reasons this functionality is limited to languages that uses the same letters to some extent.

2016-08-27: August security updated version of 6.0 is released as autoloader, added note above. See also this post

Here is a collage of what is currently disabled (click to enlarge)

Camera, image dimensions.

Normally when camera-software offers different aspect ratios this is done by either crop or (if supported by the camera) a common image circle.
The Blackberry Priv camera software offers these three modes:

Ratio Dimensions Image circle diameter (pixels) MPixels
1:1 4016 x 4016 5679 16.1
4:3 4896 x 3672 6120 18.0
16:9 5216 x 2934 5985 15.3

So at first look this is something odd in between a crop and a common image circle.

Most likely this means that the sensor (with perhaps not fully defined corners) must be at the least 5216 x 4016. AND that the image circle from the lens goes enough outside the sensor allowing 4:3 to have the largest image diameter. (click to enlarge)

Or said otherwise, the corners of the two coloured rectangles does not reach the blue circle.
So optically the same lens system could support a slightly bigger sensor giving higher resolutions in 16:9 and 1:1 (5328 x 2997 resp. 4320²  )

…Why they do not offer us a 3:2 mode with 5088×3392 or 17.3MP is anyone’s guess – it is within the circle and the optics…