Priv, BlackBerry's first Android phone, goes on sale for $699

The phone, with 5.4-in. display, will start shipping Nov. 6

BlackBerry began taking pre-orders today for its first Android smartphone, a slider handset called the Priv. The phone has a price tag of $699 and will start shipping Nov. 6.

The smartphone has 5.4-in. display, is curved on both sides and slides out to provide a physical keyboard. It also features a powerful 3,410 mAh battery, an 18-megapixel rear camera, a 2-megapixel front camera, and a MicroSD slot to provide up to 2TB of storage.

Priv gets it name from "privilege" and "privacy, " according to a blog by BlackBerry CEO John Chen which was posted on Sept 25. "Your privacy is your privilege," Chen wrote. "What's unique about our Android phone is that we are collaborating with Google to bring the best of BlackBerry security and productivity to the Android ecosystem."

Chen also said then that BlackBerry hasn't abandoned its BlackBerry 10 smartphones, including the Passport and Classic, with new updates coming in 2016.

"BlackBerry is a new company. We have new life. And we plan to continue to surprise our customers and the industry. [Priv] is just the latest move along that path," Chen wrote.

His blog was timed with the company's latest quarterly earnings, which showed a 33% jump in licensing revenue, even as revenues dropped to $490 million, down from $916 million a year earlier.

BlackBerry's pre-order page includes a note that Priv is "not compatible on Verizon, Sprint and US Cellular," which indicates it works primarily with networks that use GSM (Global System for Mobile) technology, such as AT&T and T-Mobile.

The $699 pricetag, while at the high end of top-of-the-line smartphones, is not as high as the $749 price reported on various news sites on Thursday. After the $749 posting, many commenters decried that price as too high, even for an unusual new device. In Canada, the phone will sell for $899 Canadian and in the UK it will be 559£, including VAT.

At least initially, the phone won't have Android 6.0 (Marshmallow ) the latest release, and will instead run Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop).

The Priv has a Qualcomm 8992 processor with 64-bit, dual core and quad-core capabilities. In addition to the 2TB of external storage, it has 32GB of native flash capability.

Priv's focus on privacy was outlined in an Oct. 20 blog by Alex Manea, director of BlackBerry security, calling the collaboration between Google and BlackBerry "the most secure mobile platform with the most flexible application ecosystem."

It adds that Priv "is the prefect smartphone for businesses and consumers looking for productivity, privacy and security.

The blog ticks off various components of privacy and security deployed in Priv, including the ability for IT administrators to use Google Play for Work to manage and deploy enterprise apps. One part of that ability lets admins ensure that users can't download apps to their work space from anywhere other than a company app list.

Priv also integrates Android for Work to separate work and personal data, and comes with a new Dtek application, which tells which apps access your personal data and shows overall security based on strength of a user's password, encryption setting and apps installed. It also provides recommendations on improving overall security.

BlackBerry has also provided a unique manufacturing process to inject cryptographic keys into the Priv's hardware. And, it is FIPS 140-2 compliant for government uses, meaning it has full disk encryption turned on by default.

Other specs are listed on BlackBerry's site.

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