Phone Review: The Blackberry “Priv”

I’ll be reviewing the blackberry “priv” phone today.

A couple of things attracted me to this rig: as you can tell it has buttons.  I like buttons.  Oddly enough a lot of people just aren’t used to them and prefer to use it only as a touch screen, but I find I can type a factor of at least 1.5 times faster using buttons.

Another thing I like is the power.   This thing has a decent enough camera, and can play videos, surf the web, navigate, order a taxi, astronavigate, or about any other thing you would like a computer to do.  In theory,  it has vastly more computing power than they had on board the Apollo missions or even than IBM Deep Blue had ready to defeat Gary Kasparov.

Finally, I like the name.  Why?  Because it makes me laugh heartily every time I think about it.  “Priv”, really?  Wait, this is a device that always records audio and video, as well as everything you type into it, and makes this data available to other parties.  Does that sound like privacy to you?  Hell to the no!   Let Falkvinge tell you how this games works.

But really it’s worse than that.  Sure, we can compare to something like an iPhone and see that the Android gives you a lot more freedom and privacy.  iPhone folks can’t even download and run their own software!  Er, appware I guess you call it today.  A lot of android users follow this model too as they do everything through Google and the Google Play Store.  Luckily I have found a small area of the world where most people don’t do that (China).

So what’s not to like about this thing?  Well, there’s no way to replace the battery or even take the battery out.  This means that after about a year your phone will be running out of power in 12 hours even with very modest use, and of course, that there’s no way to keep the “priv” from constantly recording your conversations (no, I don’t expect the power function to really work at that).

Another problem is that there’s no root access.  You might expect root access from a device billing itself to be private or security-minded, well, sorry.  So why would you want root access?  Well for one, you’d like to decide WHAT SOFTWARE IS RUNNING ON YOUR DEVICE.  Without root access this isn’t possible.  Every app you download can start itself up without your control.  OK so there are some things they can’t do without your permission, at least it appears that way, but really – if you wanted to control the device you’d have root access.  And if you wanted some kind of security or privacy you’d want to control the device.   Please let me know if I’m missing something here.

If you want to see something funny check out this discussion, in which blackberry representatives try to defend the stance of not letting the users own their own devices.  Basically it boils down the argument that you’ll be more secure if you get in the trunk and let me drive.

Well, it’s easy to complain about not being able to turn off various apps and watching the encrypted traffic flow in and out of your device with nothing you can do about it (actually it is possible to kill some processes but they keep popping back up)…

However, if you know these things and expect them – you can still get great mileage with this rig.  And the privacy could be a lot worse.  I’ve kept multiple bitcoins on this thing for years and never has any been stolen.  All in all it’s a great phone, would buy again.