Priv, BlackBerry's first Android phone, goes on sale for $699

The phone, with 5.4-in. display, will start shipping Nov. 6

priv blackberry

BlackBerry's first Android phone is a slider called the Priv. 

Credit: BlackBerry

BlackBerry began taking pre-orders today for its first Android smartphone, a slider handset called the Priv. The phone has a price tag of $699 and will start shipping Nov. 6.

The smartphone has 5.4-in. display, is curved on both sides and slides out to provide a physical keyboard. It also features a powerful 3,410 mAh battery, an 18-megapixel rear camera, a 2-megapixel front camera and a MicroSD slot to provide up to 2TB of storage.

Priv gets it name from the words privacy and privilege, according to a Sept. 25 blog post by BlackBerry CEO John Chen. "Your privacy is your privilege," Chen wrote. "What's unique about our Android phone is that we are collaborating with Google to bring the best of BlackBerry security and productivity to the Android ecosystem."

Chen also said then that BlackBerry hasn't abandoned its BlackBerry 10 smartphones, including the Passport and Classic. New updates are coming in 2016.

"BlackBerry is a new company. We have new life. And we plan to continue to surprise our customers and the industry. [Priv] is just the latest move along that path," Chen wrote.

His blog post was timed to coincide with the company's latest quarterly earnings report, which showed a 33% jump in licensing revenue, even as overall revenues dropped to $490 million, down from $916 million a year earlier.

BlackBerry's pre-order page includes a note that Priv is "not compatible on Verizon, Sprint and US Cellular," which indicates it works primarily with networks that use GSM (Global System for Mobile) technology, such as AT&T and T-Mobile.

The price of $699, while at the high end of top-of-the-line smartphones, is not as high as the predicted price of $749 reported by various news sites on Thursday. After reports with the $749 estimate were posted, many commenters decried that price as too high, even for an unusual new device. In Canada, the phone will sell for $899 Canadian and in the UK it will cost £559, including VAT.

At least initially, the Priv won't have the latest release of Android -- Version 6.0 (Marshmallow); instead, it will run Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop).

Blackberry's new phone has a Qualcomm 8992 processor with 64-bit, dual-core and quad-core capabilities. In addition to the 2TB of external storage, it has 32GB of native flash.

Priv's focus on privacy was outlined in an Oct. 20 blog post by Alex Manea, BlackBerry's director of security. Manea called the collaboration between Google and BlackBerry "the most secure mobile platform with the most flexible application ecosystem."

The post adds that Priv "is the perfect smartphone for businesses and consumers looking for productivity, privacy and security."

Manea ticks off various privacy and security features deployed in the Priv, including the ability for IT administrators to use Google Play for Work to manage and deploy enterprise apps. Among other things, admins can use that capability to ensure that users can't download apps to their work space from anywhere other than a company app list.

Priv also integrates Android for Work to separate work and personal data, and it comes with a new application called Dtek, which tells which apps access the user's personal data and rates the device's overall security level based on the strength of the user's password, the encryption setting and what apps are installed. It also provides recommendations on improving overall security.

BlackBerry also used a unique manufacturing process to inject cryptographic keys into the Priv's hardware. The new phone is also in compliance with the U.S. government's FIPS 140-2 standard, meaning it has full disk encryption turned on by default.

More information is available on BlackBerry's website.

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