BlackBerry plans to launch two new, cheaper Android phones


Even Blackberry has finally dumped it’s own OS as it makes plans to release two new Android-powered BlackBerry handsets for 2016 that will cost around $400 for consumers. BlackBerry CEO John Chen confirmed this on Friday during an interview with The National where he admitted that the Priv, which featured the same type of curved AMOLED display used in Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge, may have been set too high for customers.

Indeed, the BlackBerry Priv must have turned customers off when they found out about its near-$700 price tag. BlackBerry intended to aim the BlackBerry Priv at enterprise customers, or for a more business oriented lifestyle. And according to him:

Blackberry CEO speaks with reporters during their annual general meeting in Waterloo, June 23, 2015. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)

Blackberry CEO John Chen

People do like our Priv, but there’s a much more limited audience and that segment seems to be saturated at the moment”

While the company and its CEO John Chen have been mum on specific sales figures, one estimation method was proposed as a general point of reference in light of the absent data.

Last week Canada’s BlackBerry issued a quarterly guidance report which saw the company failing to meet sales predictions and in a manner of speaking, inadvertently confirmed speculation that the Priv failed to thrive in the market. Specifically, the company announced total device sales of 600,000 handsets – the number including BB10 OS devices – whereas analyst had forecast numbers around 850,000 units.

Mr. Chen warned analysts and reporters that the company might exit the smartphone business by fall, 2016, if the division didn’t start making money.

While speaking with the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper, the CEO suggested that one of the planned two mid-range devices that will be released this year, will feature an integrated physical keyboard while the second would be touchscreen-only. My guess is the all-touchscreen phone will be the lower-end handset of the bunch.

A Few Years Ago

From left to right: Pearl, Curve, Bold

From left to right: Pearl, Curve, Bold

BlackBerry forgot that just a few short years ago around 2007-2009 the success of the blackberry was thanks to the mid-range BlackBerry Curve. The Curve was a BlackBerry that all kinds of people could use and it became widely popular in the US and still remains popular even today in some areas of the world where smartphones are still a novelty.

Even in 2007-2009, BlackBerry had different models that corresponded to different people. For example, the BlackBerry Pearl was a multimedia oriented device capable of playing videos, music, and the compact keyboard (which I hope to never have to use) had two letters on a single key but offered predictive text.

Next up is the Blackberry Curve (I owned the 8530 for Sprint). It was a step up from the BlackBerry Pearl because it had a full QWERTY keyboard and offered more traditional BlackBerry Experience while marketing directly to consumers and not to enterprise customers. This phone was so popular (particularly the 8300) that it launched Research In Motion (RIM, before renaming the company to ‘BlackBerry’) into huge success at that time.

The BlackBerry Bold was the highest end of BlackBerry devices. It offered a much more comfortable keyboard, the same one found on the BlackBerry Priv which was somehow better to type on than the BlackBerry Curve’s. The later Bold models even had a touchscreen on the phone.

Focus on the Future

After last week’s earnings report, another story broke commenting that BlackBerry may be finally exiting the hardware business entirely. While this is still a possibility, clearly the Canadian OEM has at least two more chances to achieve more mainstream success, be it with enterprise users, or even the general public.

Without a doubt the issue of security is an ever-increasing one for corporations to be concerned with, and the fact that BlackBerry has committed to providing top-tier secure devices is a definite strong point for the company. Given the fact that this year’s products will be a more mid-range affair, presumably this will allow their prices to be more in range with the kinds of money that enterprise consumers are willing to spend on a BlackBerry product.

Final Word

Can BlackBerry make better success by aiming to release mid-range devices rather than focus on a single high-end device? In a market so saturated with different kinds of smartphones, there is still a great opportunity to sell devices in the mid-range market. People who will definitely NOT buy an iPhone or Galaxy flagship might be easier to convince between device options.

Is BlackBerry making a good decision by focusing on mid-range hardware, or should it have committed to more top-tier handsets with a reduced pricing structure? Would you consider buying a mid-range BlackBerry device, or using one for work? Leave your comments below and let your voice be heard!

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