News surfaced on Wednesday of BlackBerry’s intentions to only build new Android smartphones during 2016. That came as a bit of a shock, since BlackBerry has said it intends to stand by its BlackBerry 10 operating system. To be clear, BlackBerry said it will continue to support BlackBerry 10 and I imagine it will also continue to update it, but it’s only going to do so for existing handsets. I think this is a good move and in general believe BlackBerry should ditch BlackBerry 10 and plans for any future major releases.
The company sold just 700,000 handsets during its fiscal third quarter. That doesn’t count the sales of its new BlackBerry Priv Android smartphone, which is still only available unlocked or through AT&T in the United States. However, BlackBerry will soon sell the phone through Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile, giving plenty of consumers the opportunity to buy what I feel is its best smartphone in many years.
BlackBerry hasn’t been a consumer smartphone company for years now. Sure, you can still buy a BlackBerry, but it has mainly put its focus on the enterprise and keeping as many of those customers as it can. Still, with a great smartphone like the BlackBerry Priv, which has Android and therefore access to millions of applications and a UI that’s familiar to consumers, it stands a chance to increase its consumer audience considerably.
I know BlackBerry has plenty of BlackBerry 10 fans who aren’t going to like what I say and who will cheer about the increased security of BlackBerry 10. And I know a lot of those fans prefer that operating system. Still, sales numbers speak volumes, and 700,000 unit sales in a single quarter is a drop in the bucket compared to what Samsung, Apple and other OEMs are selling.
BlackBerry CEO John Chen’s comments yesterday give me renewed faith in the company. While we don’t know how well the Priv is selling yet, his decision to build Android smartphones this year instead of BlackBerry 10 devices suggests the Priv is indeed selling well. Perhaps this is the big change BlackBerry has needed all along.