Everything you need to know about the BlackBerry Priv Android phone

In a blow to BlackBerry, Sprint says it will not carry the Priv

blackberry-priv
Ted Kritsonis/Digital Trends
Android fans who still desire a physical keyboard have got something to celebrate, because after months of rumors, BlackBerry released an Android phone. It’s called the Priv, and here’s everything we know so far.

Support, price, and pre-order details for the Priv

BlackBerry CEO John Chen said at CES 2016 that the Priv would arrive on Verizon and Sprint “soon,” but while the former may have come true in March, it looks like Sprint subscribers won’t ever get the option from buying the device from their carrier.

Sprint’s “Social Customer Service Team” tweeted at several customers asking for when the Priv would become available on the network — to which Sprint replied the carrier is not interested in selling BlackBerry’s flagship Android device.

The announcement adds fuel to the fire of the Priv’s failure to reignite interest in BlackBerry’s smartphones. CEO Chen said last week the company only sold 600,000 Privs in its fourth quarter, and the company recently cut the device’s price down by $50.

Initially, BlackBerry opened up orders for the Priv in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada in late 2015, and expanded availability to Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany in early 2016. Here are all the places where you can buy or reserve an unlocked, SIM-free BlackBerry Priv, as well as the pricing for each of those countries.

United States:

AT&T was the first U.S. carrier to offer the BlackBerry Priv. It’s available in retail stores and online, and customers can purchase the phone for $250 with a two-year contract or via AT&T Next with $0 down. You have your choice of Next 24 (30 payments) for $24.67 per month, Next 18 (24 months) for $30.84 per month, or Next 12 (20 months) for $37 per month. The total comes to $740.

If you’re wondering about T-Mobile, the carrier has offered the device since January 26. You can get the Priv with the Uncarrier’s Jump! On Demand program for $0 upfront and $34 a month for 18 months or you can get the Priv for $0 down and $30-a-month payments for 24 months. All the info is in T-Mobile’s press release.

Verizon began offering BlackBerry’s Priv on March 4, and is offering the phone for $720 off-contract, or $30 per month for 2 years.

Canada:

United Kingdom:

Germany:

Italy:

Netherlands:

Spain:

We’ll continue to update this section as more pricing information becomes available.

Marshmallow and security updates

In a recent interview with Android Central, Ron Louks, Blackberry’s president of devices, commented on the upcoming update to Android Marshmallow 6.0 and monthly security updates. Louks didn’t give a firm date for Marshmallow, but said the update should hit “sometime in the new year,” at least confirming that BlackBerry Priv users will not have to wait long for it.

On security updates, Louks said BlackBerry would try to adhere — at least in Europe — to pushing security updates within a month of Google releasing them. As more malware and vulnerabilities hit Android, manufacturers are being called upon to quickly update devices to make sure users are safe and secure. BlackBerry will import its own security systems as well, to ensure any vulnerabilities are mitigated before Google patches them.

So far, BlackBerry has kept to its word, with the company releasing its February security patch on the first day of the month. As with other Android updates, these security patches hit the unlocked Priv devices first, then carrier variants.

High-end specs and Android

BlackBerry has gone all out with its first Android phone, so the specs are about as high-end as any other flagship Android phone — unfortunately, the Priv also has a high price tag to match.The phone has an intriguing slider design, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a number of years., so that users can choose between a virtual keyboard or a physical keyboard. When you slide the screen back, a full QWERTY keyboard in the old-school BlackBerry style is revealed. The keys are touch sensitive for scrolling and cursor control, too, so you can use it as a trackpad if need be.

Adding flair to the eccentric design is an immersive dual-curved screen made out of Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The 5.4-inch OLED packs a pixel resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 and a pixel density of 540ppi. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor powers the Priv, along with 3GB of RAM. While it may not be the latest processor, it is the same one found in the LG G4 and Moto X Style Pure Edition, which is to say, it’s more than zippy enough.

BlackBerry placed 32GB of storage in the Priv, which is expandable out to 2TB via a MicroSD card slot. A 3,410mAh battery promises to keep the phone running through 22.5 hours of mixed use, according to BlackBerry. Luckily, it supports Quick Charge 2.0, so even if the Priv doesn’t last as long as BlackBerry says it does, you’ll be able to juice it up quickly.

On the back of the phone, there’s an 18-megapixel dual-flash camera that’s certified by Schneider-Kreuznach. The camera app offers settings so you can tweak the photos, and the sensor itself boasts Phase Detection Auto Focus, OIS, and dual-color flash. There’s also a 2-megapixel, front-facing camera.

BlackBerry’s new Android apps

When it comes to software, BlackBerry’s added a few bells and whistles to make Android secure enough to suit its standards. The BlackBerry Hub is included, which brings all your messages into one feed, as are other standard BlackBerry apps like BBM. BlackBerry’s special DTEK for Android software will also alert you when your privacy may be at risk, give you a security rating for your device, and it offers for specific security features, so that you know what’s going on with your personal info and more. You can determine which apps and services are allowed to use your microphone, camera, contacts, and more.

BlackBerry released a range of apps onto the Google Play store in late October. The apps will be pre-installed on the BlackBerry Priv, and are apparently only usable on that device. Users who tried to download the apps were informed that their devices are incompatible.

The apps include: BlackBerry Launcher, Keyboard, Camera, and Services. Password Keeper has been added to store all passwords in a single folder, encrypted and secured by BlackBerry — the app can also import info for previous BlackBerry owners moving to Android. DTEK for BlackBerry and MicrosoftexFat for BlackBerry have also been added to the Google Play store.

Having all of the applications on the Google Play store should make them instantly available without a firmware update. BlackBerry plans to offer an almost stock experience, with additional security and some new applications ported over from BB10.

You can check out all the specs and more information on BlackBerry’s website here.

Next page: All the rumors and news prior to the preorder announcement

Official images show us what’s in store

After officially announcing the BlackBerry Priv, the company acknowledged an outpouring of interest on its blog. It’s obvious that fans want more information, and while BlackBerry isn’t ready to divulge all the details of the Priv, the company did post three images of the phone to whet our appetites.

The images look very similar to previous leaked images, but we now know for sure what the Priv will look like. One thing to note that wasn’t always obvious in prior images is the button placement on the right side. The power button is placed between the volume up and down keys. This will likely add some confusion to current Android users.

It appears that BlackBerry is poised to take advantage of this new-found attention. The company plans on releasing more pictures, videos, and hardware specs in drips and drabs leading up to the official unveiling.

Super specs and a high price

You can pre-register interest in the BlackBerry Priv on the company’s website, but official details on the phone are still limited. We do know it’ll have a 5.4-inch touchscreen with curved edges, a slide-out keyboard, and a 3140mAh battery inside. The camera will feature Schneider-Kreuznach technology.

Unofficially, we know a little more, after a complete spec list was published by BlackBerry on its website, before being quickly taken down. The list was then republished over at the CrackBerry forums. It states the 5.4-inch screen will have a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution for a 540ppi pixel density, and that a Snapdragon 808 with 3GB of RAM will provide the power. The 32GB of internal memory should be expandable using a MicroSD card, while the camera on the rear may have 18 megapixels, and the front 2 megapixels. Android 5.1.1 was apparently listed as the OS, and the phone itself will weigh a mighty 192 grams, and measure 9.4mm thick.


The battery is supposedly a 3410mAh cell with fast charging capabilities, and while it’ll probably be fixed in place, the Priv should have wireless charging and support both the Qi and PMA standards. None of this is official yet though, and the BlackBerry page has been removed, so there could be changes between now and the release.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen has said the Priv will launch later this year, and that the company’s in talks with carriers to offer the phone with a contract. Although he hasn’t give an exact cost, he said the Priv will have a “high-end price.” The aforementioned BlackBerry webpage that leaked the specs, also leaked the price — a steep $750 unlocked. The Passport sells for around $600, and even the most expensive Android phones, the Galaxy Note 5 for example, cost less. You can grab a new Nexus 6P for $500, don’t forget.

Priv is for Privacy

At the Recode Mobile 2015 conference in October, CEO John Chen emphasised the importance of security, saying that by integrating Android with BlackBerry’s secure stack, it’s, “probably on the same level as Samsung’s Knox.” The Knox system has seen wide approval for use in the Enterprise world, and by the NSA and U.S. government.

After this, BlackBerry has revealed a little more about how the phone will improve on Android’s spotty security. In an official blog post, the company lists four ways the Priv will keep your device safe from hacking or security threats.

Most importantly, it promises to keep on top of newly discovered vulnerabilities, and quickly patch them with software updates — something the rest of the Android community is only just coming around to doing. The BlackBerry Messenger app, already a privacy-orientated messaging platform, will be built-in, and the Priv offers support for other, similar apps designed for business use. It specifically mentions WatchDox, the file sharing app, and SecuSuite for private voice calls.

A mysterious new app called BlackBerry Dtek will be installed, which will be a Priv exclusive, that will monitor the phone and act as an early warning system for potential privacy issues. There are no details yet, but BlackBerry says it’s made for convenience, indicating annoying popups asking for permission to do something should be kept to the minimum.

Finally, the Priv will come with BlackBerry’s Picture Login system, introduced with BlackBerry OS 10.2.1. It’s an usual way of mixing pictures and a simple password to secure your phone, and protects the user from many common ways for hackers to figure out your password. Although no details are offered, BlackBerry says it has “performed extensive surgery” inside Android to improve overall security and privacy.

Next page: Read the rumors leading up to the BlackBerry Priv’s official announcement

All the rumors before the BlackBerry Priv officially launched

In late September, inside the company’s second quarter financial results, BlackBerry confirmed it was making an Android smartphone called the BlackBerry Priv, and it’ll be on sale before the end of the year. The news came after a stream of rumors surrounding the device, and news that sales of its BlackBerry phones reached just 800,000, a third of that seen a year ago, and overall sales dropped by half at the same time.

CEO John Chen wrote in a statement that the company is “focused on making faster progress to achieve profitability in our handset business,” and this has resulted in the Priv, an Android smartphone. According to Chen, it will “combine the best of BlackBerry security and productivity with the expansive mobile application ecosystem available on the Android platform.”

The Priv will have a slider design, and support both Android for Work and BlackBerry’s BES12 platform, showing the firm is aiming it more towards business and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) users. It’s not abandoning BlackBerry 10, and will release version 10.3.3 in March next year.

We’re told more will be revealed in the coming weeks, and the device will be sold in stores and online before the end of the year.

A Blackberry phone with a codename of Venice leaked back in June, and was believed to be running Android. It was slated to arrive in November with the following specs: a 5.4-inch Quad-HD screen, a 1.8GHz 64-bit hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor, 3GB RAM, as well as an 18-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera.

The Venice was shown to have a slide-out physical keyboard, suggesting it was the mysterious slider device CEO John Chen teased at Mobile World Congress. Rumors said the display supposedly has dual-curved edges just like the Galaxy S6 Edge.


In mid-September, Baka Mobile released a hands on video with an alleged BlackBerry Venice evaluation unit. This video reveals a quick launcher to the BlackBerry Hub, Google services, and global searching for both the Web and phone data. The default Web search appears to be Google since the Google Search bar is active on the main screen.

The main interface looks very close to stock Android, but there is no question BlackBerry will add it’s own services into the mix.

We also get a fantastic look at the physical keyboard and the sliding mechanism. The keyboard itself is capacitive, meaning that you will be able to swipe it to scroll content on the main display. It looks really slick.

Content freaks will also be happy to know that a MicroSD slot is onboard as well. Unfortunately, we don’t know how large a card it will accept.

On top of the video, Android Authority released a few more pictures of the BlackBerry Venice. The pictures don’t reveal anything new other than they continue to confirm the existence of Android. However, we now know the model number, which is STV100-6.

Apparently more than a few people were sporting the BlackBerry Venice at the Toronto Film Festival in mid-September. This isn’t a surprise since the company’s headquarters is only 70 miles away. One fan was able to sneak up behind someone using the said device and capture it on camera.

Although not the greatest photo, it showed the Venice running Android. The app appearing on the display looks awfully similar to Google’s Messenger app. Take a look at the second image below, which shows the Messenger app side-by-side with the phone.

The first high-quality images of what could be the BlackBerry Venice slider appeared online in late August. They give further confirmation to what the keyboard looks like and the presence of Google apps. However, this is the first time we get to see the sliding mechanism from the back of the device. You will also notice that the rear camera will likely sport dual LED flash.

Famous leaker Evan Blass posted two GIFs in mid- to late August of what could be the BlackBerry Venice. The first animation is a closeup of the physical keyboard and the rear 18-megapixel camera.

This second animation shows the keyboard sliding down. You will also see that many Google apps appear on the device indicating that it will be Google certified.

Following a variety of shadowy leaked images, a clear press-style image of what may be the BlackBerry Venice was posted on Twitter by Evan Blass in mid-August. The picture shows the phone with its slider section extended, revealing a physical keyboard. Above it, on the display, is what looks like Android.

BlackBerry Venice Screen

In mid-August, Crackberry forum member Mikey_NNG posted an alleged image of the on-screen keyboard from the BlackBerry Venice. He claims to have played with the device for a few minutes and it was running Android Lollipop. The back button is more spaced out than on existing BlackBerry keyboards, indicating that it is indeed an Android. A curved edge display is also clearly visible.

BlackBerry_Venice_Slider_On-Screen_Keyboard

Alleged renders of the BlackBerry Venice were posted in early August by Crackberry, and they reveal an Android interface, a curved edge display, and an 18-megapixel camera. The first render shows what appears to be the BlackBerry Hub running on Android. The circular action button (pen icon) at the bottom center of the display complies with Android’s material design principles.

Android and Google Play?

A GIF posted by leaker Even Blass in late August reveals the BlackBerry Productivity Suite, which includes the BlackBerry Hub, contacts, and unified calendar apps. These apps are not presently available on Android, but the Material Design elements are a clear sign they were developed with Android in mind. They are likely to debut on the BlackBerry Venice.

Leaked photos of the Venice and possible marketing materials suggest the phone will have complete access to Google’s apps. Early on, the Chromecast icon appeared in the renders, for example. The latest picture of the phone shows a wide variety of Android apps that aren’t available for BlackBerry phones, including Google Maps, Hangouts, Google Calendar, and most importantly, Google Play.

In addition to the presentation slides posted by Crackberry — which also showed an image of the previously leaked 18-megapixel rear camera — another two slides were added to the collection by Evan Blass on his Twitter account, this time showing the phone with Google Play on the screen, and one referencing a content transfer app. In this slide, reference is made to an “Android BlackBerry device.”

In early August, a tweet stated that T-Mobile will offer the BlackBerry Venice slider, which followed the news that AT&T would also offer the phone.

BlackBerry’s second Android phone could be codenamed ‘Prague’ and based on the Passport

In late August, images of black and silver BlackBerry Passports running Android 5.1 were leaked by Evan Blass and Dudu Rocha. The first couple of images are press renders from Evan Blass, but the other three are actual hands on pictures courtesy of Dudu Rocha.

According to Dudu Rocha, this Passport Android device will have a 4.5-inch square display, a 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, an Adreno 330 GPU, 3GB of RAM, 13-megapixel rear camera, and a 3,450mAh battery.

The images were lifted from a video, and shortly after they were posted online, the entire video was discovered. The silver Passport is identified under the codename Oslo, and appears to run Android Lollipop with a variety of BlackBerry tools installed, along with access to Google Play. The origin of the phone is unknown, so we don’t know whether it’s a homebrew device, or something more official. Take a look at the video below.

This same phone was tweeted about in early July as a second BlackBerry phone running Android. The text of the tweet stated, “Also, /this/,” which refers to a second BlackBerry phone headed to AT&T, the other one being the Venice.

BlackBerry_Android_Phone_Keyboard_Leak_01

The above image cannot be the Venice since it doesn’t appear to be a slider. We can only assume it’s the Prague, but the codename wasn’t specified. Earlier reports said the Prague would resemble the BlackBerry Z3, but this image looks more like a Passport (pictured below).

BlackBerry Passport

There’s still confusion over BlackBerry’s plans

While the Venice is expected to be a premium handset, sources say that BlackBerry is thinking about emerging markets for another Android phone — and that could be where the Prague fits in.

However, as of late September, BlackBerry has only announced one Android phone — the Priv. We’ll keep you updated with more news as it emerges.

—————

Previous Updates:

Updated on 04-11-2016  by Julian Chokkattu: Added news that Sprint will not carry the Priv. 

Updated on 02-29-2016 by Williams Pelegrin: Added news that Verizon could open up BlackBerry Priv pre-orders in a few days. Also added info on security updates.

Updated on 01-19-2016 by Malarie Gokey: Added news that T-Mobile will offer the Priv on January 26. Also added pricing info.

Updated on 01-06-2016 by Kyle Wiggers: Added announcement of T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon availability, in addition to expanded international availability.

Updated on 11-17-2015 by David Curry: Added in T-Mobile USA comments on BlackBerry and the Priv.

Updated on 11-09-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in official news the BlackBerry Priv will come to Verizon soon 

Updated on 11-06-2015 by David Curry: Added in comments on Marshmallow and security updates 

Updated on 11-02-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in AT&T availability and pricing.

Updated on 11-02-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in a leaked photo that could show the BlackBerry Priv connected to Verizon.

Updated on 10-27-2015 by David Curry: Added in BlackBerry’s new apps for Android. 

Updated on 10-23-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added in official pricing, preorder information, and specs for the BlackBerry Priv.

Updated on 10-23-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in leaked pricing and a list of newly leaked specs for the Priv.

Updated on 10-20-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in further information on the Priv, with new specs, how it improves on Android’s privacy aspects, and the option to pre-register interest.

Updated on 10-08-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in further information on the Priv, revealed by BlackBerry CEO John Chen.

Updated on 10-01-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in official images of the Priv released by BlackBerry

Updated on 09-25-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in official news that the BlackBerry Priv is real, and coming in the near future.

Updated on 09-14-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in a hands on video and more pictures of the BlackBerry Venice.

Updated on 09-14-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in image of BlackBerry Venice at Toronto Film Festival.

Updated on 08-30-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in hands on images of the BlackBerry Venice slider.

Updated on 08-25-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in a video showing a silver BlackBerry Passport running Android.

Updated on 08-23-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in new animated GIF images of the BlackBerry Venice running Android along with images and specs of a BlackBerry Passport running Android. 

Updated on 08-19-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in new images of the BlackBerry phone, plus information it may have access to Google Play.

Updated on 08-16-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in renders of the Venice, along with a photo of its on-screen keyboard.

Updated on 08-10-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in news of the “Venice” possibly headed to T-Mobile.

Updated on 07-02-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in news of the “Venice” headed to AT&T and an image of what could be another BlackBerry Android phone.

Updated on 06-19-2015 by Robert Nazarian: Added in news of another rumored Android phone called the “Prague” and that the “Venice” might not be running Android after all.

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