John Chen | Thoughts on Priv

“Of course it runs Google….”

  • John Chen, Chairman and CEO BlackBerry Limited  (On the Blackberry Priv running Android)

Nobody expects the guy to  be an Android expert. But you would think the CEO of BlackBerry wouldn’t capitulate from an operational demo. Especially because he was doing the exclusive announcement of the Priv (BB’s new Android powered touch-slider) on BNN.

(My apologies to mobile users, you will need to watch 2 advertisements to see the video)

Just because of Chromes Google account login screen. John Chen should be able to give a demo of his product.

“So obviously it runs Google and, umm…well then I have to set it up and this …is a demo unit…So it runs Google and…let me get back to my main screen…and see what I can get anything…Well…I was…So anyway it’s a curved screen, 5 1/2 inch…”


Mr. Chen goes on to talk about having:


Litterally the latest Qualcomm specs, and the cameras and all that stuff.

…in the Priv.

Blackberry Priv

Photo of Priv
Blackberry Priv

Its a cool handset, and Chen was smart to focus on the features of the hardware, since we all know what Android looks like. But it sure would have been nice to see a functional demo of the capacitive slide-out keyboard:

“So this could be your mouse, when you’re looking at…just your finger will be lIke a mouse when you’re look at…like….web…you know…doing web surfing, you know, reading big text…reading a big email…so you can move it around.”

Just the other day while, you know, reading a big email…I was thinking, “I wish my finger could be a mouse so I could move it around.” But seriously, I think BlackBerry is on to something with the slide out capacitive touch QWERTY. I’m not certain big texts, big email or web surfing would be the best applications for cursor placement using a phone form factor, but I guess we will see. It ( keyboard as cursor UI) works really well on mobile devices in the tablet space.

iPad Air


The irony of mobile computing is the one aspect that makes these devices so easy and therefore popular to use. It is the one thing that continues to become more and more complex. The complexity stems from different philosophies of mobile device OEM’s. Some turn the display into the capacitive touch keyboard. Others turn the ‘hardware’ keyboard into a capacitive touch controller seperate from the display. And just lately, handsets like the Huawei Mate and the iPhone 6S bring pressure sensitivity to the display, and the 6S takes that to the next level with temperature, haptic feedback on the display, with 3DTouch.

It’s the paradox of mobile computing that makes it such a compelling subject: How to best compromise the display for the user control. In the case of the Priv, it moves the keyboard off of the display (which is capacitive touch) onto a hardware slider. The slider then extends the the capacitive touch experience to the user by providing forward controls of the display to the keyboard to the user in a way that is (hopefully) familiar. In that context, they are definitely on to something.

However, designing it into portrait mode where it would be least appreciated was an odd move. Perhaps my iPhone experience impacts the view of this but the one reason I rarely use the landscape on a handset for input is because of the lack of display real estate. Perhaps there is something about the Priv that makes it a qgreat candidate for a portrait slider with a capacitive touch keyboard that Mr. Chen cannot articulate.





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