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Will the Priv be BlackBerry’s last phone?

Updated Nov 3rd, 2015 8:32AM EST
BlackBerry Priv Release November 6th
Image: BlackBerry

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To say things have gone poorly for BlackBerry’s hardware business over the past several years would be a grave understatement. The company last quarter recognized hardware revenue on just 800,000 smartphones sold with an average selling price of $240 each. That is horrendously bad and it goes a long way toward explaining why it’s now trying its luck releasing an Android phone called the BlackBerry Priv that will be available on AT&T on November 6th for $250 on contract.

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CNET’s Roger Cheng has written a lengthy piece about BlackBerry’s decision to finally make an Android phone and he if it bombs, there’s a very good chance it will be the last BlackBerry smartphone.

“If the $700 Priv flops, that will likely spell the end of the BlackBerry smartphone,” Cheng states bluntly. “[BlackBerry CEO John] Chen has already set the stakes. He’s said, repeatedly, that he’ll dump the smartphone business if it doesn’t turn a profit. While it doesn’t break out earnings from its devices business, BlackBerry has lost more than $6 billion in the last two and a half years. To move into the black, the company must sell 5 million smartphones next year. That’s a tall order considering it sold just 800,000 last quarter, less than half as much as it sold a year ago.”

Similarly, Bloomberg quotes Brian Colello, a Chicago-based analyst at Morningstar Investment Services, who also thinks this is likely it for BlackBerry as a device manufacturer.

“Perhaps there’s something else in the pipeline, but this device does seem like a last stand,” he said. “We’ve seen new products come out for the last couple years, BlackBerry’s trying to get a hit with any form factor, any price point and now it’s with a different operating system.”

The Priv looks like a very fine device but with a $700 off-contract price point and at least temporary exclusivity to AT&T, does it really stand any shot of being the big hit BlackBerry needs, especially in an Android smartphone market that is already brutally competitive?

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.