BlackBerry Ltd launched its first Android-based device on Friday, with
the future of the company's hardware business riding on a slick
smartphone called Priv that boasts an impressive array of features and a
hefty price tag.
The company is betting the Priv's large curved
screen, full array of Android apps from the Google Play store and blend
of productivity and security features will help it rebuild its share of
the smartphone market, which has slid to under one percent.
hacking and data theft issues becoming a bigger concern these days,
BlackBerry expects keen interest in its pre-loaded DTEK feature that
alerts users every time any app attempts to access data, or turn on the
phone's microphone or camera.
"You will be blown away by some of
the apps you use and how much data they actually access of yours," said
BlackBerry's head of devices, Ron Louks.
The smartphone's "wow"
factor, as Louks dubs it, is actually a throwback - a slide out physical
keyboard. While the small number of such Android 'slider' phones that
do exist have had little success in the market, most are dated and
clunky, say analysts.
BlackBerry is hoping its sleek design and
touch-sensitive keys that allows users to swipe, scroll and set up
shortcuts will woo former loyalists back to using the Priv.
reviews of the device were mixed, with many lauding its security
offerings, long battery life, camera, dual-keyboard design and other
features, but panning the Priv's high price tag - $699 (roughly Rs. 46,100) without a
contract in the United States and C$899 without a contract in Canada.
Still, if the BlackBerry Priv does well, analysts note the device could be a game changer for the Waterloo, Ontario-based company.
the Priv - with its premium price of about $700 (roughly Rs. 46,200) - is a hit, it could
drive meaningful growth for the company. Moreover, the smartphone
industry tends to be largely perception-driven, and a single hit
flagship product can bolster a company's brand image and create a halo
effect around its entire product line," said research firm Trefis, in a
note on Thursday.
Blackberry is pivoting to focus more on software
and device management services but has said it will stick with hardware
if the segment is profitable.
BlackBerry shares rose 4.7 percent to $7.96 in early trading on Friday on the Nasdaq.
© Thomson Reuters 2015