In an eleventh hour attempt to stay in the smartphone hardware business, the once high-flying Canadian smartphone pioneer Blackberry is releasing two—potentially final—Android-based handsets this year. You may recall its failed debut into the Android space with the Prive in 2015; this year, CEO John Chen hopes that its two successors will be greeted with a warmer reception.
When the likes of Facebook and WhatsApp ceased support for BlackBerry 10 OS, the writing was on the wall: get out of the OS business. But will the launch of two open source handset models save the struggling firm? To help you understand what’s in store for BlackBerry—both in terms of products and the fate of the company—we’ve listed the following 13 important things to know about its two new smartphones, currently code-named “Hamburg” and “Rome.”
13. The two new smartphones will be released in 2016.
Even though BlackBerry has yet to officially announce a release date for the new smartphones, its CEO had publicly declared that it will happen in 2016.
12. The new smartphones will use mid-range hardware.
In an effort to stay competitive by attracting to a wider customer base, BlackBerry has stated that both handsets will use mid-range hardware.
11. They will also be moderately priced.
Another important element to the company’s final stratagem is a competitive pricing strategy. It hasn’t officially announced it yet but CEO Chen has stated that the new handsets will cost between $300-400, a paltry figure when compared to the $699 MSRP of the BlackBerry Priv.
10. The two new models are more like fraternal twins.
BlackBerry has announced that one of the new cellphones will be a full touchscreen device while the other will have the QWERTY + Touchscreen architecture present in some of its current smartphone models.
9. The new phones will feature fingerprint readers.
Despite using mid-range hardware for the two handsets, Blackberry decided to go all in with the biometrics. The new models include a new feature never included before: fingerprint readers.
8. The two phones may be the company’s last two models.
Its CEO stated that this is the company’s last opportunity to make a profit and stay in the hardware market. “If I can’t make it profitable because the market won’t let me, then I’ll get out of the handset business”, said Chen.
7. Some blurry photos of the devices have been released.
Blackberry didn’t share much when announcing the two new Android handsets, but they did release a couple of very blurry photos of them. And here they are.
6. The Prive will still be available and its price will be lowered over time.
The BlackBerry Priv hasn’t been abandoned or rendered derelict—in fact, it will still be sold in 31 countries, though a gradual reduction from the current $699 price tag is planned.
5. No more non-Android handset development from BlackBerry.
That’s right—no more BlackBerry OS. Older handsets will still be sold but all non-Android hardware investments will cease in order to devote all resources to the two new devices.
4. BB10 users’ devices will still be supported with OS updates.
Chen has stated that the BB10 users can rest assured that the company will still be updating its older OS versions, despite ceasing to develop more hardware for the OS.
3. BlackBerry has its sights set on the company communications space.
The two new devices will attempt to fill a need in the company communications space for a robust and secure Android smartphone.
2. If the new phones aren’t a success, the company will surely go bankrupt.
Analysts around the world agree that this is the last opportunity for BlackBerry to stay alive, with many experts saying that bankruptcy is a likely reality for the company.
1. Despite facing existential challenges, BlackBerry is still committed to security.
BlackBerry reaffirmed its commitment to security with the BB10’s national security certification. The new Android devices may follow suit.
After a 39.8% year-on-year drop in hardware revenue, the company’s fate hinges on the success of its two new Android smartphone. But a future beyond hardware may be possible—Chen eluded to a potential refocus on software, stating that “if by September, I couldn’t find a way to get there, then I need to seriously consider being a software company only”.