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The Priv is the first BlackBerry-branded smartphone that does not run the company's proprietary BlackBerry OS or BlackBerry 10 (BB10) platforms. It instead uses Android, customized with features inspired by those on BlackBerry phones, and security enhancements. With its use of Android—one of two smartphone platforms that significantly impacted BlackBerry's early dominance in the smartphone industry—the company sought to leverage access to the larger ecosystem of software available through the Google Play Store (as opposed to BlackBerry 10 devices, which were limited to native BB10 apps from BlackBerry World and Android apps from the third-party Amazon Appstore running in a compatibility subsystem), in combination with a slide-out physical keyboard and privacy-focused features.

The BlackBerry Priv received mixed reviews. Critics praised the Priv's user experience for incorporating BlackBerry's traditional, productivity-oriented features on top of the standard Android experience, including a notifications feed and custom e-mail client. Some critics felt that the device's physical keyboard did not perform as well as those on previous BlackBerry devices, and that the Priv's performance was not up to par with other devices using the same system-on-chip. The Priv was also criticized for being more expensive than similarly-equipped devices in its class.

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