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BlackBerry Priv sales begin, but will they be enough?

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 9, 2015
The slider phone may be one of BlackBerry's last, as company weighs being a phone maker

Meanwhile, AT&T is the only U.S. carrier selling the Priv. T-Mobile hasn’t ruled out selling it and recently told Ubergizmo that it will support anyone who purchases the Priv unlocked to use on T-Mobile’s network. BlackBerry noted on its pre-order site that the phone is not compatible on Verizon, Sprint or U.S. Cellular. Also, the pre-order site was recently updated to say BlackBerry won’t ship the phones until Nov. 23, later than the Nov. 9 ship date that appeared earlier.

"This Priv phone alone won't save BlackBerry," Gartner analyst John Dulaney said in an interview. "There's still a lot to do. I believe Chen wants BlackBerry to be a software company focused on security."

While the Priv supports Android for Work and is certified FIPS 140-2 security compliant, it still won't be secure enough to win buyers needing the highest grade of security, like those in the military, Dulaney said.

That could leave the Priv targeted mainly for the consumer market "that wants a keyboard and wants privacy and is very messaging-centric and wants the benefits of Android," including access to plenty of apps, Dulaney added. While Priv runs Android 5.1 (Lollipop), BlackBerry "is working quickly" on getting out an Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) update, a BlackBerry spokeswoman said.

While some analysts said Priv's slider design could be a success by imitating the earlier BlackBerry Torch, Dulaney deferred. "The slider has never really been accepted as a widespread design," he said.

"We've gone through 15 years of trial and error on design and all kinds of form factors, and people now want a large-screen black rectangle. BlackBerry has obviously done a lot of research but it seems like a very niche design," Dulaney said.

However, Dulaney held out the possibility that BlackBerry could introduce other Android phones that are more mainstream in design.

Of course, that assumes BlackBerry will be making phones in another year.


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