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BlackBerry Priv coming to the Middle East

Android-powered handset to be available in UAE and Saudi Arabia from mid-January

The device features a full touchscreen as well as a pull-out physical keyboard
The device features a full touchscreen as well as a pull-out physical keyboard

BlackBerry's Android-powered handset, the Priv, will be available in the Middle East from the first half of January 2016, the company announced today.

The device, which features a full touchscreen as well as a pull-out physical keyboard, is BlackBerry's first handset to not run on a version of its BB operating system. Instead, the Priv runs on a version of Google's Android operating system, which BlackBerry says leaves the vendor's strengths in security and privacy intact.

IN PICS: BlackBerry's Priv

"Priv is the first BlackBerry smartphone running Android and it creates a new market opportunity for us in the Middle East with users who are entrenched in the Android ecosystem and who are seeking greater productivity and more powerful privacy features," said Mike Al Mefleh, product management director for the Middle East, BlackBerry.

"In addition, Priv is the first Android smartphone to combine the privilege of privacy with all of the most critical features users need to power through their day: a BlackBerry keyboard, large display, excellent battery life, BlackBerry productivity and security features, powerful specs and access to the world's largest app ecosystem."

In terms of features, the device offers a dual-curve, 5.4-inch OLED display, sporting a pixel density of 540 ppi. The battery is a 3,410 mAh unit, which BlackBerry says offers 22.5 straight hours of mixed usage. There's an 18MP rear-facing camera, certified by Schneider-Kreuznach, and under the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, 32GB of onboard storage, and support for microSD cards up to 2TB.

In terms of privacy and security, the Priv has got a lot to offer. There are advanced privacy controls in the DTEK by BlackBerry app for Android, which monitors and reports on application access to the microphone, camera, location and personal information. And the hardware itself is manufactured using BlackBerry's hardware root of trust process, which injects cryptographic keys into the device hardware, providing a secure foundation for the whole platform.

The device also features a verified boot and secure bootchain - keys have been embedded to verify every layer of the device from hardware to OS to applications in order to make sure they haven't been tampered with. Additionally, BlackBerry claims that thousands of modifications were made to harden the Linux kernel with numerous patches and configuration changes to improve security.

IN PICS: BlackBerry's Priv

And, of course, the Priv is fully compatible with BlackBerry's enterprise mobility management solution, BES 12.

The device will be available initially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, for a recommended retail price of AED 2,899 and SAR 2,899 respectively.