Priv, The Android Phone With A Physical Keyboard, Goes Up For Pre-Order

It’s very thin pickings for fans of physical Qwerty keyboards in these touch-sensitive mobile times. But for those few who remain hung up on the caress of plastic keys under their fingertips there’s soon to be one more option to consider — given the BlackBerry Priv has just gone up for pre-order in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., with shipping slated to start on November 6.

The handset is priced at $700 in the U.S., which positions it towards the high end of the Android smartphone price range — so BlackBerry is clearly hoping the lure of physical keys will be enough of a differentiator to poach buyers who might otherwise have shelled out for a top-of-the-range Samsung Galaxy (or similar).

BlackBerry CEO John Chen confirmed myriad leaks of the imminent landing of an Android-powered BlackBerry late last month, demoing the touch-slider device to BNN. So yes the phone is a cake-and-eat it approach, with both keyboard and touchscreen in one package — provided you don’t mind a little heft in the hand (and a little BlackBerry branding on your handset).

On the heft side BlackBerry is at least compensating for a little thickness around the phone’s waist by sticking a beefy battery (3,410mAh) under the hood, albeit this is non-removable — unlike in the case of those BlackBerrys of yore.

The Priv has one more trick up its sleeve that might appeal to erstwhile Samsung buyers: a microSD card slot for user expandable storage of up to 2TB. Samsung’s recent flagships dropped the microSD card slot in favor of a more slender form factor — a move which wasn’t universally popular with their fan-base to say the least.

The Android-phone-in-BlackBerry-clothing also comes with what the company describes as “added security to let you know when your data could be at risk, so you can take action to improve it”. Aka a BlackBerry app called DTEK — a sort of privacy dashboard for users, where they can get an overview of their device security and control individual app permissions related to personal data and privacy — such as whether an app has access to the microphone, location and other personal info.

This is BlackBerry’s answer to the security-focused, enterprise-targeting Android-powered competition that’s sprung up in recent times — such as Silent Circle’s Blackphone — vying to fill the gap in the market left by the collapse of its own handset marketshare.

BlackBerry will presumably also be hoping it can trade on a battered but still recognizable brand in the business space. Albeit iOS has proved plenty popular with enterprise users too, so there’s stiff competition on all sides.

Still, the Priv is pretty much the last phone standing with a set of physical keys under its belt. Whether that’s enough to draw former BlackBerry users back into the fold remains to be seen. But Chen and co clearly think the Priv is worth a punt.