Let's get one thing out of the way - we fancy ourselves a bit trendy, in-vogue, hipster-ish - and generally 'with it' here at Entropy. We're also, on the whole, absolutely devoted Apple and iOS enthusiasts (with some notable Android loyalties sprinkled in for good measure).
So imagine my surprise when a BlackBerry device (of all brands) landed in the office yesterday, and within 24 hours I had already swapped my shiny new iPhone 6s Plus (and Apple Watch, mind you) for the latest Android-powered retro-ish handset from Waterloo, Canada.
Yes folks, the Priv has indeed taken my fancy.
For the uninitiated, BlackBerry's latest attempt at staving off extinction arrived last Friday in the form of a hybrid 'slider' style phone - crucially not running BlackBerry 10 OS (thank the lord!) - but Android Lollipop.And it's just about the most unique mobile phone I've seen in years.
And by the way, this is coming from a guy who owned a Yotaphone for a few days.
So the name sucks. There's just no getting away from it. The PRIV-ilege of PRIV-acy?! Please. Good to know that while the BlackBerry hardware team is evolving, things haven't change much up in Marketing. We'll leave that for the moment - along with the vomit-inducing ad campaign and corresponding photo expose thoughtfully dubbed "The Gallery of Privacy".
Back to the handset for a second then.
First off, it's running an almost totally clean instance of Andorid Lollipop (noticeable points lost for failure to launch with Marshmallow), a snappy Snapdragon 808 processor, 3 GB of RAM, and expandable storage. Oh, and the screen is drop-dead gorgeous - all 540 ppi's of it. It seriously puts the iPhone 6s Plus screen to shame as the colours absolutely pop - and text is beyond super-sharp.
So on the spec sheet things check out pretty well.
So if it did nothing else - this would be an admirable mid/top tier Android device. But the real star of the show is the retro-slider mechanism which magically reveals a full, tactile QWERTY keybaord - a la BlackBerry devices from the turn of the millenium. The feel of this springy, magnetic slide is absolutely joyous. Seriously, I haven't had this much fun sliding a phone open and closed since my Nokia 8110 - remember the one from the Matrix? Yeah, THAT long ago.
The keyboard definitely takes some getting used to. After almost 9 years of typing on glass, it takes a while for the muscle memory to kick back in. In fact, I'm still not there yet - and often find myself deferring back to the on-screen keyboard when I get frustrated with the old-skool tactile buttons. But there's something oddly satisfying about it. In fact, I'm noticing that I *enjoy* typing on the physical keyboard more than the touchscreen.
The backlash to the touchscreen-only keyboard experience is nothing new - and it's interesting to see Apple even break ranks by releasing the iPad Pro with a custom keyboard cover, as if they are almost ceding the need for full, tactile keys when productivity demands it. So the release of a brand new flagship with a full (hidden) tactile keyboard could be a masterstroke. The key though is the 'hidden' bit as when the phone is in touchscreen-only mode it's damn near impossible to even tell a physical keyboard is even there. It's super thin, light, and even with a 5.4-inch screen, fits much more neatly in the pocket than the 6s Plus. And that may be the killer feature: touchscreen all day long, type on a keyboard when you need to - all in a thin and attractive form factor.
After all, isn't that the whole argument of the iPad Pro with the keyboard cover?
So after 24 hours it's difficult to give an absolutely thorough evaluation of this phone. It runs a bit hot (actually it gets REALLY warm when doing multiple tasks), the BlackBerry software is kinda meh, and it still uses micro-USB instead of the new USB-C standard. But with a some software updates (which are rumoured to be coming soon), this could end up being one of the most interesting phones of 2015 - and that's a big statement in the year of the iPhone 6s and Nexus 6p.
For now, I'll keep pounding away on this crazy miniature keyboard, recording my thoughts, and listening to some late 90's indie rock.
All of these things oddly go really well together...