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Mobile Communications

BlackBerry will attempt its last hurrah with a pair of mid-range smartphones

BlackBerry isn’t throwing in the towel just yet.

In what could be described as a last ditch effort, the company’s chief executive, John Chen, told The National that BlackBerry plans to launch two mid-range Android smartphones this year. One of those phones will come equipped with a physical keyboard similar to that featured on last year’s launch, the Priv, while the second smartphone will offer a full touchscreen experience.

The company recently eschewed its own BB10 operating system in favor for Google’s Android, but that wasn’t enough to help the struggling manufacturer. The BlackBerry Priv sold a measly 600,000 units since its launch last November, far below the original forecast of 850,000. Those low numbers have lead to some speculation that BlackBerry will eventually kill its device business and focus solely on its security-focused software services. The company expects that particular division to grow about 30 percent in the next year.

“Since I started at the company [in November 2013] I’ve been saying I’ll make the handset business profitable,” Chen told The National. ““If I can’t make it profitable because the market won’t let me, then I’ll get out of the handset business.”

The story behind the story: BlackBerry is attempting a serious comeback, but its first Android phone was way too pricey. Chen admitted that “the fact that we came out with a high end phone [as our first Android device] was probably not as wise as it should have been.” He added that “A lot of enterprise customers have said to us, ‘I want to buy your phone but $700 is a little too steep for me. I’m more interested in a $400 device’.” BlackBerry’s next two smartphones will be mid-range devices because the high cost of the Priv did little to attract users.

Unfortunately, there’s no hint on when we can expect to see these new devices. But BlackBerry will have to act soon before it gets overshadowed by other major Android players. With Samsung leading the way with enterprise-focused software features, and Android Work becoming easier to integrate, BlackBerry is quickly losing its marketing angle. 

IDG Insider

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