It took about eight years, but BlackBerry finally has a phone that can hold its own in the modern smartphone era.
The new BlackBerry Priv, which goes on sale this week, is the first phone from the company that doesn’t run its own mobile operating system, BlackBerry 10.
Instead, the Priv runs Android, just like millions of other devices out there.
For the first time, a BlackBerry owner has access to millions of top-tier apps that he or she couldn’t get before. (BlackBerry’s app store is in a sorry state of disarray.)
As my colleague Antonio Villas-Boas wrote in his review of the Priv, BlackBerry made a solid, attractive device that marries the best of Android with the best of what BlackBerry fans have always loved. It has a sharp, 5.4-inch touchscreen and access to all of Google’s excellent services like maps, calendar, and Gmail. There’s a slide-out physical keyboard that will delight those longing for the feeling physical keys beneath their fingertips.
But I’m not convinced the Priv will be enough to rescue what’s left of BlackBerry’s smartphone business. Compared to other Android phones in the same $US700 price range, the Priv is under powered and doesn’t have any key differentiating features to convince me your money isn’t better spent on the iPhone 6S or one of Google’s new Nexus phones. Sure, the physical keyboard is nice, but ever since the introduction of the iPhone, we’ve learned that virtual keyboards do the trick for just about anyone.
Simply put, the Priv is too expensive for what you get.
This is the same problem Samsung has been facing for the last two years or so. It continues to make pricey Android phones at a time when other companies are making similar devices for hundreds less. So, naturally, people gravitate towards the cheaper devices. (However, it seems like Samsung may make its next flagship Galaxy phone a lot cheaper to adapt to this trend.)
But Samsung already has a large chunk of the global smartphone market. It can take the hit. BlackBerry’s market share is hovering near 0%, according to the research firm IDC, and the Priv is unlikely to change that. Industry analysts agree. Even though the Priv is a good phone, BlackBerry waited too long to release it.
There are plenty of excellent Android phones out there, and most of them cost a lot less than the Priv. (Google’s new Nexus phones start at $US379 and are the best Android phones you can buy.) Unless you really want a physical keyboard, there’s no compelling reason to buy it over something else.
And that isn’t a good sign for BlackBerry.
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