BlackBerry launches first Android-based phone

by | Nov 6, 2015 | Biz/Tech, News

Amy Wallace

BlackBerry’s first Android-based phone goes on sale Friday, in what could be a make or break move for the company.

If the new phone doesn’t sell, the company may turn away from designing phones, and focus instead on its software licensing and services division.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen has said that in order to stay in the handset business, the company needs to sell at least five million devices this year.

Some critics are praising the new device, which could be hailed as a comeback for the company.

“Compared to the other devices the company has released in the past 18-24 months, the Priv stands the best chance of catching on in the marketplace, simply because it has the right specs and it also runs Android,” Carmi Levy, CTV News technology analyst, said.

BlackBerry used to be wildly popular, and the early 2000’s witnessed a BlackBerry craze. Yet the Waterloo, Ont.-based company has fought to stay relevant amidst the rise of iPhones and other Android devices.

“The problem the company faces is in convincing buyers to give the BlackBerry brand another look,” Levy said.

The company’s worldwide market share is around 0.3 per cent, predicts research firm IDC.

The release of the new model is a move to address lack of apps.

For the first time, the Priv will run on Google’s Android system, rather than its own operating software.

“The reason that people have not bought BlackBerrys for the better part of the last couple of years is that they do not run the most popular apps that are available today,” Levy said.

Levy said that most developers create apps for iOs and Android, but fail to do so for other platforms, such as BlackBerry.

Priv’s design is sleek, and features a dual curved screen and slide-out keyboard.

While there are people that prefer the touch screen, “there is a certain minority that still cherish the ability to press real keys,” Levy said.

The device is also laden with security features (Priv stands for privacy and privilege).

“Android has not always had the best reputation for security, BlackBerry addresses that and then some,” Levy said.

The phone’s DTEK app informs users of how secure their device is.

It provides security ratings, and recommendations for how to improve security.

The Priv is available for $899, from carriers including Rogers, Bell, Telus, Wind Mobile, Sasktel and BlackBerry’s website.