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Passport_Android

Pearl, Curve, Bold, Z10, Q10, Passport.

If you’re a BlackBerry fan, then your phone collection might look something like this. Starting with the old Pearl with a trackball, you slowly matured and modernized your tastes until finally BlackBerry wasn’t doing it for you anymore.

It’s 2016, and the numbers speak for themselves, BlackBerry isn’t doing very well. But it’s a lot more complicated than that. Coming off the dominance of the early 2000s, the legacy BlackBerry operating system found itself outdone by the fancy new iPhone, with one of the first ever on-screen keyboards to maximize screen real estate. Fast forward a few years, and BlackBerry’s innovation fell short. BlackBerry 10 with its gesture controls, true multitasking, and plethora of other productivity-based features just didn’t make the cut and app developers flocked to iPhone and Android for their earnings. Fast forward a few years again, and it looks like BlackBerry might have a good idea. Looks like they’re finally acknowledging the need for apps, and going for gold with the all new BlackBerry Priv. That is until the pricing is released. With the BlackBerry Priv being close to $1000, many people are skeptical at best, especially with the mentions of the removal of BlackBerry’s hardware division, which would ultimately bring the device’s support down to null. With such a steep price tag, and expectantly low sales, is BlackBerry in a never ending downward spiral, doomed to follow the ways of other once dominant figures, such as Palm?

HAMBURG

BB Central Render

Until recently I’ve been a BlackBerry Passport user, but last month I switched over to Android, specifically to the LG G4. If I’m such a big BlackBerry fan, why didn’t I switch over to the BlackBerry Priv? To be honest, the pricing of the LG G4 (which I got on sale) was just too enticing to pass up. That compiled with the whole ‘Facebook debacle’ on BlackBerry 10 really left me wanting a change. However, all is not lost, there are still a few things that a new BlackBerry handset can do to win me over.

Running Android

This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve got to mention it. I know that a lot of you out there are BlackBerry die-hards, and to be honest, if it weren’t for that whole ‘Facebook debacle’ then I’d still be using my Passport. However, switching to Android made me realize something. Almost everything I wanted to do on BlackBerry 10 was a compromise. Twitter and Facebook were not up-to-date, there were no Google Play Services, my Pebble needed a third-party solution, and the list goes on. Beyond that, I’ve realized that after getting my LG G4, how much I was missing out on. Seeing those iconic app badges on new companies and services with the “available on Google Play” text used to make me shrug and not even try. Now I can try out new things with a few taps, without worrying about Google Play Services, or performance issues.

BlackBerry 10 was a great operating system and I definitely miss the gestures, and the Hub. However, the sheer amount of content that I was missing is rather staggering. Experiencing native Android is almost like getting a smartphone for the first time.

445460-blackberry

Classic Physical Keyboard

Here’s a classic BlackBerry user request, a physical keyboard. Yes, I’m aware that the Priv has as physical keyboard, but having heard reviews and tried out demo units myself, I’ve discovered that it’s not very good in comparison to others that BlackBerry has produced in the past. Something similar to the Passport, with the same haptic feedback and proper key spacing would make a world of difference.

No Slider

I know that I’m probably going to be attacked for this one, but I don’t like sliders. Don’t get me wrong, they’re cool and I see why people like them, but they aren’t for me. The mechanical sliding mechanism always broke in the old BlackBerry Torches and that’s enough for me to not want them. The less mechanical parts, the better.

Passport Keyed Priv

CB Fan Render

Stability

This is probably one of the most important points from an economist point-of-view, new BlackBerry devices need stability. I don’t mean the traditional software kind, I mean in terms of a business model. With BlackBerry on the fence regarding its hardware division, it leaves me wondering whether it’s a good idea to get any BlackBerry device until that whole situation has worked out. I understand that Android will have better support than BlackBerry 10 once a device has reached end-of-life, but the fact that the entire division might be closing doesn’t make the plunge very enticing. I’d like to be able to become a fan of a device, and then upgrade to its various iterations as time goes on, rather than change manufacturers.

Better Pricing

I’ve left this one for last because it’s a big concern for BlackBerry Priv enthusiasts. The BlackBerry Priv is expensive, very expensive. Yes it has high-end hardware, but I feel like they overshot this one. Many businesses are looking for something to fit into their budget, and having a device that you may need to deploy to several thousand employees, be a few hundred dollars more than normal is troubling. Not to mention the average consumer isn’t willing to pay that kind of money for a first generation product.  Purchasing through the carrier is really the only way to go for the Priv, and since my carrier doesn’t offer BlackBerry products anymore, it’s a serious problem.

Recently John Chen has mentioned that a couple more mid-range devices running Android will be debuting sometime soon. Mid-range is probably exactly what the Priv should have been, it would have ended up being near the $0-$100 mark after carrier incentives, which is enticing for people who are the least bit curious about its unique design.

BerryFlow_DeviceLineup

Whether you’re still on BlackBerry 10, jumped ship to another manufacturer, or a BlackBerry Priv owner I hope that we all have the same mentality. We want BlackBerry to succeed. In hardware, software, and services, without compromise, and without the threat of annihilation from the competition. Despite jumping ship, I’m not bitter, I’m hopeful for the future and I hope that someday soon I’ll be writing this on a BlackBerry device again.

Matt Lawrence

Author Matt Lawrence

Graduate of a Computer Engineering Technology program, and overall geek. I've always had an interest in writing and video production, revolving around technology. I currently own and operate my own web development & design business, Digital Dynasty Design, and submit content here on BerryFlow. If you want to talk tech, comment on my articles, or use my Twitter - @mlproductions01

More posts by Matt Lawrence
  • Brandon Martin

    The most telling thing in Matt’s editorial is that he bought an LG G4, which is an excellent Android phone. He doesn’t look at how hard it is to compete on Android with Android OEMs like LG, Samsung, and Sony who have vertical integration with hardware production, but if he did, he’d see that he’ll pretty much always be buying an Android from a company other than BlackBerry. BlackBerry cannot compete on price with people who own component sources. Furthermore, it’s very, very hard for BlackBerry to distinguish itself or differentiate itself based on a physical keyboard when the OS and apps aren’t really built to maximize the value of physical keyboards. The Priv was the biggest flop in BlackBerry’s flagship launch history for a reason, it is essentially undifferentiated Android, an experience little different than hundreds of other phones with various cost and reputational advantages.

    The solution that Matt didn’t talk about was BlackBerry competing with its own platform, a proven path for success. When the iPhone came out, the BlackBerry Bold 9000 crushed it in sales. But, it was clear a new platform was needed, ideally one that could be licensed to other manufacturers, and transitioning to a new platform is not easy. You’re always going to start with zero marketshare and have to build from there. BlackBerry 10 launched fine. It didn’t upgrade the percentage of existing BBOS users it needed and it lacked the differentiating benefits for productivity users it needed. It was a great foundation with lots of promise and its app ecosystem grew faster than Android or iOS in their first six months, but by month 8 or so, it’s champion in management and in the community were gone and they were replaced by John Chen, who announced a plan to reorganize the company into divisible parts and promptly announced that hardware may be shuttered if it operates at a loss, which is the only business plan that’s going to work for a new platform in which short term losses prompt growth and bigger profits in the future. He fired or transferred developer relations and began bleeding the BB10 team almost immediately. Some of Mike L’s vision continued with Blend, but nowhere near the Blendy apps integration and awesomeness that he’d seen. But, essentially, BB10 was abandoned when Chen came aboard — he even killed the platform’s BlackBerry Live and Developer conferences. Sure, he released some BB10 products that were in the pipeline and outsourced one or two, but BB10 as a platform really only had about 8 weeks in which it was adequately supported by BlackBery. And, it did surprisingly well for a new platform. In the first quarter, Thor sold 7 – 8 million phones — far more than what Chen hopes to sell in a year with Android. The Z10, BlackBerry 10’s first phone — always a tough sell for a new platform — sold 5 million units over its life, about 4.2 million more than we can expect the Android-based Priv to sell. ;-) There was a reason to buy the Z10, it promised the first baby steps into a unique productivity-first platform that would have huge advantages and grow over the next decade, but there’s no reason to buy the Priv — you’d be better off with an LG G4.

    I think a lot of people think BB10’s stumbling and current status mean that BB can’t compete in the platform wars, but it really just means that John Chen and/or the Board chose not to compete. And, yes, Matt ignores the 3rd party FB app Face10 and other good solutions — (like the standard FB app is that good, anyway?) And, yes, he also ignores that everything good he said about Android can be said more persuasively about iOS — radically higher quality app ecosystem, etc. But, the biggest problem is that he cautions BlackBerry not to compete or innovate in any meaningful, distinct way. He wants a physical keyboard — a value proposition that taken alone has not won over consumers — and the generic Android OS. This is a proven recipe for disaster. The Priv will not sell better now that it is available for less money because the Samsung S7 is just better in the Android space and, frankly, so are cheaper budget phones like the Moto X Pure.

    BlackBerry needs to pay its dues and introduce real unique value — based on hardware and software and protected by IP — that it’s competitors cannot match. Is that possible? Yep, Android and iOS are legacy platforms that are showing their age and they must appeal to the masses and, thus, can’t be focused in design on a smaller, but profitable niche (like productivity). It’s not easy. But, it’s what the previous CEO knew was necessary — short term losses was why going private made sense and why a five year plan was in place. Adopting Android is just a road to oblivion.

    • Matt Lawrence

      Competing against your own platform is only a proven method of success if your previous platform is still successful. Apple does this all the time with a variety of products. BBOS was already dying when BB10 came out, so they definitely missed the mark as consumers were migrating to Android and iOS. Also, BlackBerry needs to be competitive in the Android space. Saying that they just can’t be due to a crowded market doesn’t do the company any good.

      BB10 had a great launch, but it wasn’t followed up with many successes in marketing or winning over app developers. The fact that the platform did not perform well for nearly a year before Chen came into power was a clear sign that despite BB10’s great interface and other features it just wasn’t able to make the cut. Unfortunately apps drive the mobile landscape and since they’re not very universal across platforms (depending on how an app is developed, this varies) BB10 just simply fell short as developers were not willing to put time into porting or developing apps for minimal sales.

      Saying that I’m better off with an LG G4 might be true at the moment, but that’s not saying the Priv is bad in any respect. I had some complaints about it in this article, but I have complaints about any device that I use and I’m sure that’s the same with most people who are involved in technology professionally, or otherwise. I’m still excited to see what BlackBerry brings out this year, as they’ve been discussing two more smartphones, and I might grab one of those. Also, I don’t think the S7 as a fair comparison because the Priv has aged quite a bit in the grand scheme of things, and the S7 is brand new.

      I don’t feel that I’m cautioning BlackBerry to not compete in any way. The physical keyboard is BlackBerry’s trademark in many respects, and while that might not be enough to draw over millions of customers, it is always a topic of discussion in reviews of their devices, and definitely draws those that type long emails on the go. In addition, these features that I’ve listed in the editorial are from my preferences, they’re the things that have kept me on a BlackBerry up until very recently, or things that I wish BlackBerry devices had.

      Android is also a great way for BlackBerry to explore going “productivity first” because it’s open source and customizable. The BlackBerry launcher is very productive and is only getting better. This seems like a better path than making their own platform and wasting time trying to bring over app developers. Now they can focus on making the device productive and secure instead of worrying about sustaining an install base over the long term.

    • Hi Brandon,

      Very few people think that the Vienna/Rome running Marshmallow will start outselling iPhones, but I think you underestimate how many people reluctantly gave up their Blackberry devices for the world of the apps and how many younger people will grow to love the advantages of the physical keyboard as long as they get fully-supported apps and the latest games. I frequently get asked about my Classic device by strangers and like Matt said: even the reviewers that were very critical of Priv’s software performance with Lollipop acknowledged how nice it was to use a physical keyboard. If Blackberry can boost sales with a lower price point that corporate clients are comfortable with, that means more people on the street using Blackberry devices and more people asking questions…awareness will spread like a virus. As James said in BerryFlow podcast a couple weeks ago: word-of-mouth advertising is the only way that Blackberry will overcome the current cultural bias and endless jokes about Blackberry. Ads on TV, Facebook, and Twitter won’t work very well right now.

      Plus, Apple’s latest earnings reports reflect the reality that smartphone innovation is slowing down, but I’m very confident that people are still eager to find new ways to improve their smartphone experience. Freedom from the frustrations of autocorrect might be the “Next Big Thing” to steal Samsung’s motto. As Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal put it: “Smartphones Are Becoming Boring. Here’s What’s Next” http://www.wsj.com/articles/smartphones-are-boring-heres-what-happens-next-1459963697

      As somebody who just needs a phone for email, SMS, and reading the news via BB10 great browser, I’m going to miss BB10 when the Vienna/Rome comes out. I get your desire for Blackberry to make one last push to get app developers on board, but the economics of the developer world are getting harsher due to consolidation and I don’t think it’s reasonable to try nudge the entire industry to develop for another platform besides Android and iOS. Don’t forget car manufacturers as well.

  • BB10star

    What a crock of crap! This ‘article’ is mearly another negative opinion piece, a rehash of media propaganda ongoing against Blackberry since 2009.

    “BlackBerry isn’t doing it for you”
    “Blackberry isn’t doing very well”
    “BlackBerry’s innovation fell short”
    “BlackBerry in a never ending downward spiral”

    If BerryFlow supports this crap, then they can shove it.
    The people I knew (at least 5) with Torch phones never had slider issues so “always broke” is false, and is a poor excuse not to try a Priv.
    Cellphone marketshare was never really theirs to lose as HUNDREDS Of MILLIONS of people had Nokia and other non-smartphones. Even in 2007 BlackBerry units shipped were 2-3million per quarter. As the Nokia users gravitated towards smartphones, BlackBerry sales rose, but so did Apple, and then android.
    Consumers chose what the media pushes in the form of product placement, commercials, fake reviews, celebrity endorsements. Negative propaganda creates doubt against competition, and enough of it erodes consumer confidence in products to affect sales. It’s psychological.
    The BB10OS could have come sooner, but the OS itself is a breath of fresh air. BB10.3 is far superior to others out there in terms of navigation, efficiency, security, fluidness, speed, reliability, stability.
    The negativity against Blackberry stems from comparisons with the old BBos, people mention BlackBerry and think of Curves. What they really need is media support, because that is what gets people to buy things, and as more people buy, more developers build apps to support that OS.

    Have fun with the new gimmick, you should quit writing for a Blackberry based site.

    • Matt Lawrence

      Have you checked the BlackBerry stock price?
      Have you seen their sales numbers?
      Are you aware that BlackBerry 10 doesn’t even have basic apps like Facebook?

      Yes, there is a lot of negative attention that is drawn to BlackBerry due to the media, some of it has merit, some of it doesn’t. The mere fact that BlackBerry themselves is questioning their future as a hardware manufacturer should be very clear that they missed the mark with BlackBerry 10, and didn’t innovate fast enough when the iPhone and Android were gaining popularity.

      The smartphone market today is much larger than it was back when BlackBerry was “stealing” customers from Nokia. The smartphone market was 100% BlackBerry’s to lose because they had smartphones out years before the iPhone was even mentioned to the public. The fact that the numbers back then may have been 2-3 million per quarter in comparison to the monster numbers of today is irrelevant, the technology market has changed immensely in these few short years.

      Your comments regarding BB10.3 might be true, but the lack of support from app developers ultimately kills BB10 as a consumer choice. There are so many things that you can’t do on BB10 simply due to lack of apps, or the apps being limited due the lack of Google Play Services.

      Before you start telling Berryflow to stop supporting articles like this, calling my editorial crap, or telling me to stop writing for a BlackBerry site you should start thinking logically and not like a fanboy. You can’t just blindly blame the media for everything that has happened to BlackBerry. I made it very clear through this and my previous editorials here that I am a BlackBerry fan, however, I will acknowledge places where they’ve missed the mark.

      Quarterly results, comments from John Chen, and stock price are not gimmicks.

  • BlkHoneyBadger

    I have some tidbits I would like to talk about. You wrote ” BlackBerry 10 with its gesture controls, true multitasking, and plethora of other productivity-based features just didn’t make the cut and app developers flocked to iPhone and Android for their earnings”. Reality was that the developers were not there in the first place. BlackBerry waited too long to jump into the app game. Now they are to much off tight asses to pay devs a flat fee to build and maintain native apps and they can be awarded a percentage of in app purchases. They did a bail out move twice once with the amazon app store and another with going android. Amazon was a flop because it didn’t have barely many more mainstream apps. It just offered more third-party junk. I love BlackBerry but their biggest problem is not handling things right directly ( pay people to make the apps you need to even the playing field) instead of the we are focusing on enterprise approach.

    • Matt Lawrence

      I agree. They definitely need to keep working on initiatives and projects that they start more closely, otherwise they just fall apart. However, in the very beginning of BlackBerry 10 they had quite a few apps, new ones coming out very frequently and the future was looking bright. Unfortunately this all fell apart rather quickly after the few launch promotions they had for developers ran out.

  • I would add one more thing that Blackberry really needs to consider for future Android devices. 50% of the population are women who have smaller hands. Women were suffering through aging iPhone 5 and 4S devices until Apple started selling iPhone 6-SE a couple weeks ago. Apple anticipated this problem with 6 and the massive 6-Plus, but the Reachability software solution was really poor designed because you can’t lock the screen in the reduced size.

    As Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams in the Revolutionary War: “Remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.”

    • Matt Lawrence

      With media consumption on mobile devices on the rise I think the smaller device market is still too much of a niche to get BlackBerry the financial support they need.

    • Yeah, you’re right and I’m wrong…I should have thought about Econ 101 before posting this idea. I highly doubt Blackberry will ever be popular as Apple for that kind of specialization, but that’s okay as long as they can sell 5 million units they can have a nice side business with their enterprise software division. The best solution to cater to women is to offer a software solution that is better then Apple’s Reachability. I did a little research: Samsung’s TouchWiz has a good solution that shifts the screen down to the bottom left or right corner and then goes into full-screen mode for a YouTube video. Good for women and good for people like me who frequently only have one hand free.

    • Matt Lawrence

      Considering they only sold 600 000 devices in Q4, a niche market won’t give them 5 million sales, even if you tack it on to what they have now.

      You said it yourself, Samsung has a solution for this, and Apple has a similar one in software and with the new SE.

      These competitors outrank BlackBerry in everyway these days, so most consumers will just go to them instead.

      I will say that there definitely is a market for small devices, but we arent seeing small “flagship” devices from Apple and other manufacturers, they’re sort of a secondary device alongside their big phablets. BlackBerry needs the main course more than ever now, not the side dish.

  • newcollector

    One small point of disagreement…the Torch sliders we tanks when it came to durability. That was my experience. However, a non-slider qwerty is in the works as is a slab android phone from what Chen said.

    I do like the Priv but it is too rich for my blood right now. My Passport is more than adequate. Hope I don’t have to change to Android, but if I do, it will be a BlackBerry device.

    • Matt Lawrence

      They were tanks I agree, but the usage over time always seemed to kill the ribbon cable for the screen through normal wear and tear.

  • Kevin Ware

    Great article. I have a Passport and a Priv. And I love them both. I’m a die hard BlackBerry supporter and will continue to buy products until the wheels fall off. Excited to see what the future brings.

    • Matt Lawrence

      Thanks! Let’s hope the future brings some financial success.

  • Thanks for writing this article…I’m completely agree with everything. I’m also on Team No-Slider. I vaguely recall reading that the Torch 9800 was tested on a machine that open and closed it the keyboard a 100k times, but I highly doubt that testing include dust, pocket lint, pollen, etc. I would add one more reason to join Team No-Slider and why I stayed with the Classic: if you only have one hand free and still want to use the physical keyboard on the Priv it’s really hard to reach with your thumb to navigate on that big Priv screen…even if you have larger hands like I do. I really don’t mind that an always-present keyboard forces the screen to be smaller especially since a smaller screen saves battery power.

    • Matt Lawrence

      Thanks!

      With the new swipe typing on marshmallow physical keyboards the lack of a slider would be even better for one-handed use.