Chrome has been integrated into Android to the point where it feels like a native part of the OS. By default, each tab goes into the app switcher as if it was an actual app. The browser has several options that can make sites feel more like native apps too.
Chrome also encroached on Opera's turf by enabling website data compression. It helps sites load faster on spotty connections, but also uses less of your data cap too. For privacy reasons, SSL sites and Private tabs do not go through Google's servers and are handled normally.
The browser situation, while not perfect in terms of overall performance, is probably the best BlackBerry could opt for, without getting its hands dirty with extensive Android optimization.
As for multimedia, however, the OEM might have gone a little overboard in its quest to keep the Priv as bloat-free as possible. Keeping the stock looks is one thing, but there seems to be some missing functionality in the handset to the point of inconveniencing the user. There is actually no dedicated gallery to speak of, which is fine, as far as pictures go thanks to the bundled Google Photos, as well as music, also handled by the search giant's software.
Video, however, is a whole different story. If it comes from the camera, the app itself has built-in preview, which is fine. But, if you want to browse for files in the storage, there is no apparent option to quickly get around your clips, especially if they are side-loaded or downloaded. There is a local storage browser in Google Photos that picks up on video as well, but that is far from convenient.
Blackberry seems to have only one other solution put in place, which is BlackBerry Device Search. It is a rather powerful tool that goes through every inch of your device to search for a keyword. That, of course, includes all files on the unit, but more often than not, the actual file gets lost in the sea of other results. Plus, you do have to know the name or date of said video. Other than that, the Search app can be convenient if leveraged correctly and it follows pretty much the same all-encompassing philosophy as the BB Hub, which can be overwhelming.
With no dedicated file manager either, other non-multimedia files are left practically hidden away on the main memory and getting to them can be a pain. Judging by the dedicated page within the Priv's Help directory, which is almost comical, BlackBerry wasn't completely oblivious to the difficult navigation, but why it decided not to address the issues is beyond us.
The gallery app is Google Photos. It offers multiple views, ranging from a yearly view with tiny thumbnails to comfortable view that shows one photo per row. Google's cloud services are prominently featured, in fact unless you enable cloud backup you'll get an annoying crossed out cloud icon on all your photos.
The app does have some cool, cloud-enabled smarts though. Assistant is the latest iteration in Google's AI photo tricks. It can automatically suggest movies, collages and more created from your photos. Plus, the new face detection algorithm is almost scarily good to be true.
The Stories view borrows from HTC and creates an animated slideshow of photos from a given event (determined by time and location). It will automatically select which photos go into the slideshow, but you can pick manually too - choosing to include (or not) photos of certain location taken at certain times.
You can create Movies, Animations and Collages, just pick several photos and/or videos. Note that this uploads them to Google's servers so it will eat up your data allowance (and is a privacy concern too).
Google Play Music is the audio player of choice on the BlackBerry Priv. It feels equally at home playing tracks from the internal storage (in fact, there's a Downloaded only toggle) and online.
You'll need a Play Music account for online streaming. Once you've added your own music tracks to Google Play Music, they become available to all your devices, including via a computer web browser.
On your phone you can choose to have the tracks downloaded only over Wi-Fi and only when charging to save your data plan and battery. For tracks that weren't cached, they can be streamed over mobile data or only over Wi-Fi and you can reduce the quality if you're low on data. You can buy songs too, to make them a permanent part of your collection.
A Google Play Music subscription (where available) will let you stream music by various artists much the same way you would do that on Spotify.
Google Play Music has a 5-band equalizer with presets and a manual setting. There are Surround sound and Bass boost sliders too (the latter is available only when you plug in headphones).
There's no dedicated video player, even getting to your video files can be tricky since Google Photos mixes in all photos from years ago and finding a video can take a while. It's best to go into the folder view and open the video from there.
Video playback is as basic as it comes, just a play/pause button and little else. That means no subtitles or any special video settings.
The video format support is pretty poor out of the box. Old-school AVIs don't work and naturally no multi-channel audio. Even some H.264 videos proved to be a problem.
4K HEVC videos and many video formats work, but you'll want a capable third-party video player for better format support and subtitles.
We can't imagine many people going for the BlackBerry Priv for its audio reproduction qualities alone, but these days no high-end phone is allowed to be subpar in this department. The business-meant droid started off impressively showing great clarity and very high volume when working with an active external amplifier.
Loudness remained stellar even when we plugged in a pair of headphones, showing that the Priv will have no trouble handling some high-resistance headphones. However some distortion crept in and even though the stereo crosstalk was decent for the use case the performance isn't quite perfect. It's still very adequate though and there's nothing for the Priv to be ashamed of.
Anyway, here go the results so you can do your comparisons.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|LG G4||+0.04, -0.07||-93.4||93.3||0.0021||0.050||-92.6|
|LG G4 (headphones)||+0.93, -0.13||- 91.4||91.9||0.013||0.244||-50.4|
You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.