BlackBerry Priv: Here's why I have mixed emotions as someone who has switched from BlackBerry to Android

This is going to take me some time to come to terms with. I’ve been a BlackBerry user for many years now. And today with the BlackBerry Priv being in the news, I recall fond memories of my BlackBerry Curve that helped me type out 2000-word documents at ease.


This is going to take me some time to come to terms with. I’ve been a BlackBerry user for many years now. And today with the BlackBerry Priv being in the news, I recall fond memories of my BlackBerry Curve that helped me type out 2000-word documents at ease. I eventually did get promoted to a BlackBerry Q10. The BlackBerry keyboard always ensured I could type thousands of words without realising it. I didn’t feel the need to be in front of a computer.

In the true sense it was my productivity device. I’ve seen BlackBerry evolve with BlackBerry 10 – a cutting edge operating system. It truly is. But somewhere, I feel let down by BlackBerry. And I’m not alone. When BlackBerry launched the BlackBerry Z10, and then the BlackBerry Q5 and Q10, it displayed what it could accomplish, if it decided to. Then came along the BlackBerry Passport.

These devices had a clear edge over competition, at least on paper. Many kept writing them off, and it always seemed unfair. Many core users I know, including myself, kept harping on the aspect of security. Back then, I did feel the need for it. Today WhatsApp gives you the ability to have read receipts for each member in a group – something BlackBerry Messenger doesn't support.

I loved the browser on BlackBerry 10. It’s clearly among the fastest mobile browsers out there. Besides, it’s based on WebKit again. So not only is it fast, but also complies with the way most websites are designed. For a user, that’s how a browser ought to be. But for a developer, it’s the other way around.

BlackBerry did everything possible to re-invent itself ground up. And then comes along the BlackBerry Priv. From all those I have interacted with who religiously follow BlackBerry, I can place their reactions in two buckets. On one hand, there are those who are absolutely delighted to see a BlackBerry Android device. These are the kind who would stay with BlackBerry as a brand under all circumstances they face.

And then there are those who can’t see BlackBerry doing an Android smartphone. They probably consider it blasphemy, because Android is the polar opposite of everything BlackBerry stands for. The BlackBerry boys, the purists who are obsessed with their 'crackberrys' wouldn't take it very kindly.

And I began this morning in anticipation awaiting the India launch of the BlackBerry Priv. And all I could think of was we finally saw a drastic shift. One of survival and relevance. What has it come down to? The best QWERTY experience on an Android device? Is that what technological merit would be pegged at? And to consider that would be half a lakh? Rs 62,000 to be precise! Is that why companies such as Ryan Seacrest's Typo were asked to cease manufacturing, only to make way for irrationally priced BlackBerry devices that don’t run on the BlackBerry operating system?

And another aspect of my digital experience was missing out on Instagram, Snapchat, Google+, and so much more. Yes, there are no native apps. And being a core fan myself, I relate to those arguments about sideloading and the virtual Android environment. If you're one of those contemplating such arguments, let me say it – they don’t hold true. Yes, I have loved, and will always love the email experience on a BlackBerry. I wish our lives revolved only around email. Sadly, that's not true.

You need to be stranded in a remote part of the city, and your only hope to finding your way needs to be one of the popular taxi services. Considering that most of them are app-only and specifically Android and iOS only, you’d take an instant resolve to switch to either an iPhone or Android device. I've been there, to realise the gravity of the problem BlackBerry has been dealing with. And that is apps. It always has been and will continue to be.

I guess I now understand how core users of Palm webOS and Nokia Symbian felt when those brilliant products faced an abrupt end. There’s a common trend in these products. Each had immense potential, but were abruptly put to rest. With BlackBerry again, the new BlackBerry 10 operating system had immense potential, but seems to have been abruptly put to an end. Since BlackBerry has announced that it will launch two devices this year (both being Android devices), it seems the company is headed for a similar fate.

What’s contradictory is BlackBerry made a significant announcement today – it would push software patches every month to fight malware in Android. Besides, the BlackBerry Hub, which has been one of the unique aspects of the OS UI will now be available on Android with the Priv. Well, as someone who has been using BlackBerry 10, I wish these efforts went towards building its own proprietary OS rather than what a Lumia has ended up becoming.

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