The fact that the BlackBerry Priv will be followed by more Android-based phones isn't really a surprise. In December, CEO John Chen had suggested that if the Priv turns out to be a success, BlackBerry will launch more Android phones in 2016.
BlackBerry 'Vienna', its next Android phone leaked
"Depends on the Priv. If the Priv is well received in the market and looks like it is. There's a good chance [...], we will still focus on the high-end probably closer to mid-range coming out in 2016," said Chen in an interview with the Bloomberg.
However, things didn't go as planned, as the Priv, despite being a one-of-a-kind phone that offered an Android OS secured by Blackberry 10 Enterprise, generated a lukewarm response after its launch.
"We released our Android device just about when the high-end phone market went soft, so that was principally the reason behind the lukewarm response. However, the execution could have been better because I tried to sell these phones through carriers and retail shops," Chen told ET.
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Despite the lack of success, BlackBerry is determined to push forward with more Android phones. The move could have been spurred by a recent exodus of popular apps like WhatsApp and Facebook from the BlackBerry 10 Enterprise.
Leaked images of BlackBerry's upcoming Vienna with a QWERTY keyboard
In February, WhatsApp announced that it will stop supporting all BlackBerry 10 phones by the end of the year, claiming that the software held back its efforts to bring in new features for its users and that existing owners of these phones must buy new ones to continue using its popular app.
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“While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don't offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app's features in the future. This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp. If you use one of these affected mobile devices, we recommend upgrading to a newer Android, iPhone, or Windows Phone before the end of 2016 to continue using WhatsApp,” said WhatsApp through a blog post.
In March, Facebook followed suit by announcing that it will also discontinue support for BlackBerry 10 phones by the end of the year. With both social media platforms each boasting over a billion users coupled with the fact that only 0.2 per cent of smartphones globally are BlackBerry ones, the shift to Android seems to be a wise one. For the records, BlackBerry sold just 600,000 phones in the first quarter of the year.
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As for the upcoming phones, Chen insists that both will be mid-range ones while admitting that the $700 price tag of the Priv was a bit too much for its customers. In the UK, BlackBerry kicked off pre-orders for the Priv with pricing starting at £559 but is now selling it for £529.
Back in November, leaked images of a phone named BlackBerry Vienna showed the phone featuring a physical keyboard, but unlike in the Priv, not a slide-out one. Whether the Vienna would be the upcoming 'QWERTY' phone that Chen is talking about is still a matter of discussion. However, at a time when we've gotten so used to touchscreen phones, whether a QWERTY keyboard handset will succeed is a question that BlackBerry will have to carefully consider.
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Even though BlackBerry's losses have halved in the last quarter, the company is far from making any profits. Chen is aware of the fact and hints that the launch of two new Android phones doesn't mean that BlackBerry will continue its handsets business in the long run.
“Since I started at the company [in November 2013] I’ve been saying I’ll make the handset business profitable. If I can’t make it profitable because the market won’t let me, then I’ll get out of the handset business. I love our handset business, but we need to make money," he said to The National.