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BW Businessworld

Blackberry’s Android Gamble

Blackberry Priv, the expensive Android flagship couldn't be more unique with its slide-out QWERTY keyboard

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How very nice to see another phone with that familiar BlackBerry logo on the back. For gone are those days when you'd see a Pearl or a Curve or a Bold or something launch every so often.

But let's leave off lamenting the old days when BlackBerry reigned supreme, give it an award for bravery and get on with looking at the Priv — short for privilege, for those who can afford it at Rs 62,990.

The price tag has been a shocker, not just in India but the world over with many considering it pure suicidal. Not that others don't price their flagship phones that high. They do, but the bitter truth is that people want those phones — specifically the iPhone. Who, with Rs 62,990 to spare, would set aside the iPhone 6s or the Galaxy S6 Edge and opt for the Priv? I'm not sure, but BlackBerry still has fans and data from the Play Store seems to indicate 50,000 units had already been sold for a phone that just launched a week earlier.

Getting over the price, the Priv is really an unusual and interesting device. It would be quite right to say there's no other like it. To look at from the front, it's like a phone that wanted to be a Galaxy S6 Edge but changed its mind. It's certainly got the curved edges on both sides of the screen and that not only looks really nice but has a function or two such as a virtual tab to slide out the BlackBerry Hub.

This handset is a little heavier than you'd expect and you'll soon realise why. Push up the thin metal line at the bottom of the screen and it'll lift up smoothly to reveal what BlackBerry users have always loved — a real QWERTY keyboard.

With the keyboard slid out, the phone becomes really tall and many feel it also becomes top heavy and unbalanced. I think it's more a question of getting used to it. But there's definitely one thing that's a danger: With the device sticking out that way, anyone passing by quickly could knock it away. Or it could knock against something if you're moving about. No doubt, great care will have to be taken when using the Priv.

They keys are smaller than usual but have enough separation and travel. You have the same word prediction and shortcuts and seasoned BB users will find they can achieve quite a bit of speed using it, but it's still not quite the same experience as before.

When you get tired of typing, you can slip the keyboard back into place and switch to the virtual one. Now the phone goes back to looking like a regular Android device. You get Android apps via the PlayStore and an Android interface. At the same time, you can slip out the Hub any time for all your communication, including, of course, BBM, if you can find others still using it. You also have BlackBerry's security built in.

The integration of both worlds — touchscreen and physical keyboard, Android and BlackBerry — is really a remarkable feat to have achieved. And incidentally, the phone has a pretty good camera though it often over-sharpens images and burns out some colours. The battery life should have been a bit better. But other than that, this is a most unusual device, suited to, it would seem, BlackBerry users who want to make the transition to Android and touchscreens at their own pace.

Fiio X5 2nd Gen
When digital audio players started taking over (especially Apple’s iPod) a new category of gadgets came into the market and slowly axed music CDs and cassettes. However, the era of MP3 players didn’t last long as soon most people started using their smartphones to listen to music. There are a few well-known brands such as Sony, Apple and Philips, which are still making an effort to keep the category of standalone music players alive. Joining them in their effort is Chinese brand, Fiio, which has been making affordable digital audio players for some time now and has recently launched the Fiio X5 2nd Generation music player — an audiophile’s dream come true.

The Fiio X5 2nd Gen (an update on the original Fiio X5) takes inspiration from the design patterns of the popular Apple iPod Classic with a small display and a round click wheel below, except the wheel actually rotates and there are a few more buttons around it to make the user experience simpler. It comes with expandable storage and has two microSD card slots, both of which support up to 128 GB of memory, allowing you to carry huge libraries of music on the go. The player uses a microUSB port for charging and transferring music. It can play up to 192 kHz and DSD128 high-res files and covers almost every audio file format. High-resolution audio definitely sounds impressive and even songs in MP3 format turn out to be crisp and fulfilling. With a 3,300mAh battery, the player can last about 9 hours after a full charge.

Fiio has focused on delivering professional-grade sound output. At Rs 25,000 it is an expensive deal, no doubt, but then you are paying for top-notch quality.

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blackberry android apple smartphones magazine 07 March 2016