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BlackBerry Priv finally available for pre-order, specs confirmed

The Blackberry Priv runs Google's mobile operating system.The Blackberry Priv runs Google's mobile operating system.
The Blackberry Priv runs Google's mobile operating system.Courtesy of BlackBerry

If you’ve ever wanted a smartphone that combines a classic BlackBerry (BBRY) keyboard with the ubiquitous Android operating system, you’re in luck. The BlackBerry Priv is available for pre-order from UK retailer Carphone Warehouse.

However, consumers in North America won’t be able to plunk down any money on the device just yet. The device is only available for pre-registration in the United States and Canada. After signing up, consumers will be notified when the device goes on sale in their respective country.

The Priv is BlackBerry’s first smartphone that runs Android— Google’s (GOOGL) mobile operating system—and includes its own proprietary security app. Previously, the company’s flagship phones ran software developed internally, but its BlackBerry 10 operating system lacked apps. The Priv will use Google’s OS, which will allow users to install Android apps from the Google Play Store and take advantage of Google services.

Meanwhile, the listing on Carphone Warehouse includes a hands-on video, and provides the first official look at the device’s specifications that are generally in line with other high-end Android smartphones. The Priv is equipped with a curved 5.4-inch 2560 x 1440 screen, much like Samsung’s (SSNLF) Galaxy S6 Edge. It’s packing a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 32GB of expandable storage, and 3GB of RAM. The camera, often a weak spot on BlackBerry phones, is an 18-megapixel shooter, paired with a 2MP front-facing camera.

But the most important—and arguably best—feature on the Blackberry Priv is its sliding keyboard that also acts as a capacitive touchpad. Only a few smartphones on the market today come with keyboards, and its inclusion could help the Priv stand out.

Without a wireless contract, the Priv costs £579.99, which works out to about US $895.

According to BlackBerry CEO John Chen, Priv is short for privacy and privilege, and the company is working with Google to secure its new platform. Enterprise-level security has traditionally been a BlackBerry selling point.

The enhanced security appears to take the form of a new Android app called DTEK. Although most details haven’t been revealed, BlackBerry confirmed the app can “provide you with the power of privacy.”

However, Chen might not be the best spokesman for the Priv. Last month, he gave an awkward Priv demo during an on-camera interview where he had trouble launching a Chrome search app.

He also explained that while the BlackBerry 10 OS could still be “a smashing success,” it didn’t have enough apps, which is why the Canadian company opted for Android. “This is really the best thing we could do,” he said.

If the Priv doesn’t take off, it could be one of the last BlackBerry devices ever launched. Chen said that BlackBerry aims to sell 5 million devices per year, which he believes is the minimum needed to turn a profit. Although, that number has charged drastically over the years: when Chen took over in 2013, he set a goal of 10m phones per year.

BlackBerry isn’t even close to hitting either target. Last quarter, the company sold only 800,000 phones. However, BlackBerry sees itself less as a device company these days and makes most of its revenue from enterprise customers, while making significant headway with its automotive operating system QNX. The company is a “true software powerhouse,” not a device company these days, Chen explained.

BlackBerry was once the worldwide leader in the smartphone market, but according to IDC, in recent years its marketshare has dwindled to a measly 0.3%. The plan is that by switching to Android, the most popular mobile operating system worldwide, those numbers will change for the better.

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