BlackBerry may have fallen out of favor with the majority of mainstream smartphone purchasers, but the company has always held a certain appeal with the, erm, super-rich. That's why it's no surprise to see the Porsche Design P'9983 getting unveiled here at London's Harrods, a department store where personal submarines and gold-plated Xbox Ones sit side-by-side. The phone is the latest collaboration with the German design outfit, which crams BlackBerry hardware into its own chassis, and we got some time to find out how this thing feels in our hands.
Before we begin, however, we should indulge in a little history. After all, the P'9983 is the third device to emerge from the collaboration between BlackBerry and Porsche Design. The first was the P'9981, which crammed a BlackBerry Bold 9900 into a new chassis -- an idea that was so popular, it sold 170,000 units and became Harrods' biggest selling device. This was followed by the P'9982, or a BlackBerry Z10 with a minor storage bump and an angular, more brutal exterior. We've heard an unofficial statistic that around 30,000 of these units have been sold in the device's life, which goes to show that there is a market for this sort of ultra-ultra-premium smartphone.
If you were hoping that the P'9983 would be taking hardware cues from either the soon-to-be-released Classic or Passport, then you're likely to be disappointed. Unfortunately, this device is merely a dressed-up version of the old Q10. That means that you're stuck rocking the same dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm MSM8960, 2GB RAM, 3.1-inch 720 x 720 display and 2,100mAh battery that that we saw back in April of last year. The only difference this time around, is that there's 64GB storage tucked inside the hardware, rather than the 16GB found in the original and the microSD slot will now accept 128GB cards.
Of course, the one thing that the Q10 did get right was the keyboard, and it's this feature that has sent Porsche Design's employees a little crazy. This time out, the device has a keyboard with specially-crafted "glass-like" keys made from composite plastic and a 3D-effect for the lettering. The high-gloss keyboard is tremendously easy to run your fingers across, and there's a surprising amount of travel considering the size of the device. The keys are big enough that you'll probably be able to hammer out mini masterpieces on this as soon as you've gotten back into the habit of using a physical keyboard.
One of the things that you'll be sure of with a Porsche Design handset is that the build quality will be exemplary. It's no different here, with a stainless steel frame that is pleasingly heavy. You can feel it hang inside your suit jacket pocket, giving you the impression that it'll take a lot of punishment.
The P'9883 runs BlackBerry 10.3, but the company didn't want to spend too much time discussing the operating system in any great depth. After all, there's another device due very shortly that'll emphasize the new software features in greater detail. Some of the things you can spot, however, include a new "blue circle" that highlights the most commonly used feature in any menu -- offering an email compose shortcut in the email hub or the shutter icon within the camera. There are also a raft of small software tweaks that Porsche Design has included, like a PD-styled clock face, loading screen and system font.
One thing that won't change on this new device is the ability to side-load Android APKs if you're not satisfied with the selections on BlackBerry World and the Amazon App Store. The former, however, is being tweaked to focus on productivity apps rather than trying to compete with Google Play.
Camera-wise, there's an 8-megapixel, sapphire crystal-coated lens at the back that we've also covered in enormous detail in our review of the BlackBerry Q10. At first blush, little has changed, which means that we're confident enough to give you the TL;DR version here: in bright light, photos are good with bright color reproduction, albeit missing a little bit of sharpness. In darkness, you're probably better off using another device.
Like the Z10 before it, once you open up the presentation box, you'll find a credit-card sized certificate of authenticity and your own "exclusive" BBM code. The 2AA that sits at the start of your messaging pin will denote you as a cut above regular users, and a special icon will appear in your profile to tell the world that you spent some serious cash on your phone. The device is also exquisitely packaged, coming in a sturdy box that includes a stereo headset, charging plugs for various nations, a USB cable and a polishing cloth. You'll also be able to swap out that glass-weave backplate for various premium leather options in a variety of colors.
BlackBerry is targeting its line of Porsche Design handsets to the "Power Professional," a euphemism that broadly encompasses style-conscious millionaires and ultra-masculine business types. It should, therefore, be no surprise to learn that the the Porsche Design BlackBerry P'9983 will set you back £1,400 / $2,000 (which roughly converts to €1,780). For most of us, that's a little too steep considering that you can get a Q10 for free on some contracts nowadays. If you're not a devotee of asceticism, or you're already an oil billionaire, or you do your business deals from the front seat of your Porsche, then it's just pocket change. Of course, this device is little more than a statement of wealth, a bold way of walking into a room and saying "I am rich" without having to pull out your most recent bank statement. As long as you can ignore those who'd point out that you can get essentially the same phone for free, then you can snag this device from Harrods at the start of October and from other high-end outlets a week afterward.