The new Blackberry has launched—but with a fraction of the publicity that usually attends the release of significant other smartphone brands.
However, in announcing that the new Blackberry Priv is now available in the U.S. and Canada—and will shortly arrive in the U.K.—Blackberry chief executive John Chen said that the phone has a focus on security, productivity and most importantly, Android functionality.
Blackberry has struggled in the smartphone market in recent times. The BBC reported that Blackberry sales now make up less than 1 percent of the global smartphone market, and Chen has said he would consider pulling out of the market if things didn't take an upward turn.
In the last quarter, only 0.3 percent of smartphones sold globally were running Blackberry's operating system (OS), according to Gartner. By contrast, 96.8 percent of the 329 million smartphones sold were either running Android or Apple's iOS.
The Priv—which is due to retail at $700 for a sim-free handset, according to the BBC—could therefore be Blackberry's last foray into the smartphone market.
Newsweek considers three features of the new Blackberry Priv which means that maybe—just maybe—it could be a better bet than a new iPhone or another Android device.
The power of Android
Android is, by far and away, the biggest smartphone operating system (OS) in town. In the second quarter of 2015, Android accounted for 82.8 percent of the global smartphone OS market. This is compared with 13.9 percent on Apple's iOS and 0.3 percent on Blackberry OS.
By jumping on to Android, Blackberry opens a wealth of applications and functionality to its users that was previously unavailable, says Christian Kane, mobile analyst at technology research firm Forrester. "Where Blackberry lost big-time in terms of platforms for consumers was the app ecosystem," Kane says. "They really missed the boat on that and were never really able to catch up."
Keeping your phone private
Blackberry prides itself on its security. "Since our founding in 1984, security and privacy has been in our DNA," Chen said in the launch announcement. The company is seeking to keep this tradition going with the Priv: Blackberry has pledged to keep the Priv up-to-speed with monthly security patches from Android, a feature that should place it at the front of the Android market ahead of other brands such as Samsung and LG in terms of security, according to tech website The Verge.
The Priv also comes with a unique feature called DTEK—a monitoring feature that keeps track of all the applications downloaded by a user and lets the user know what information those apps are downloading, flagging up potentially-malicious apps with a traffic light system.
"[It's] essentially a way for you to have a privacy check-and-monitor on your applications and on your data," Kane says.
In light of the recent weaknesses exposed in the Android OS—including the Stagefright vulnerability that was believed to have the potential to affect 950 million devices—this emphasis on security will likely be welcomed by consumers, Kane says.
The keys to productivity
Probably the most striking physical feature of the Priv is the sliding keyboard. Blackberry pioneered the smartphone market without operating a touch screen, but the new device offers users the choice between tapping on the screen or pressing on buttons.
Despite adding the keyboard, the Priv still boasts a 5.4 inch (13.7 cm) screen—slightly bigger than the iPhone 6s, which has a 4.7 inch (11.9 cm) display—and comes in pretty slim at 0.37 inches thick (0.94 cm).
"Maybe in some previous designs if you wanted to have a keyboard, it was essentially either going to eat up some of the screen real estate or make it a pretty thick device," Kane says. "For the Priv, it's pretty slim."
For those who feel the need for a real physical keyboard to get things done, the Blackberry offers a stylish yet slim option.Try Newsweek: Subscription offers