BlackBerry unveiled its first full-fledged Android smartphone, the BlackBerry Priv, in October. The device, which was first leaked on the Internet with the codename ‘Venice’, was in the spotlight even before its official announcement. After it was available for purchase in November, the company’s CEO announced that BlackBerry managed to sell around 700,000 units of the Priv since its availability, terming it as a success. Now, John Chen, CEO of BlackBerry, has hinted that the company might launch more Android smartphones in the coming year.
Speaking to investors at BlackBerry’s Q3 earnings call, the company’s CEO highlighted the positive reviews that the BlackBerry Priv garnered from expert panels and reviewers. While sales of 700,000 units of the Priv is nothing comparable to smartphone sales figures from Samsung, Apple, Huawei, or even Xiaomi, these figures suddenly seem interesting when you come to know that BlackBerry managed to sell just 800,000 units of BlackBerry OS 10-powered smartphones last quarter. This gives hopes of survival to BlackBerry’s hardware efforts.
My first goal is to get us into a break-even position with the device business, because you really couldn’t do anything strategically with a business that continues to lose money…We’re in that ballpark now
– John Chen, CEO of BlackBerry Limited
We should also consider that the BlackBerry Priv is an expensive device priced at $700 (~ Rs 46,419), while the company’s average selling price of BlackBerry OS 10-powered smartphones was just $240. Therefore, the company is making much more money per Priv sold. Also, the device was available only through AT&T in the US. The company is yet to launch the Priv in wider markets around the world, including India. Now that the company seems upbeat regarding its hardware business, something that wasn’t expected even a couple of months ago, the company is even considering releasing more cheaper priced Android-powered smartphones during 2016.
The Android 5.1.1 Lollipop-powered Priv not only brought iconic QWERTY keyboard and security features such as DTEK, but also other features like a curved AMOLED display from Samsung, an 18-megapixel camera with OIS, front-facing loudspeaker, and a 64-bit hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor. BlackBerry even shipped mostly stock Android like UI with the Priv, adding its own additions as separate apps and widgets, which is a good direction to move to if you ask me. A few software side quibbles aside, the Priv seems to be a really good device, even its battery life.
If the company launches cheaper priced Android devices, would you be interested in buying smartphone with QWERTY keyboard? Some would argue that they would better buy a OnePlus, a Galaxy, or a Nexus device instead of an Android-powered BlackBerry smartphone, but some are still amazed by that QWERTY keyboard that can be mashed even without looking at the device. Heck, even I would love to try out the BlackBerry Priv. What price points and features would you like to see in future Android handsets from BlackBerry?