BlackBerry to launch two new cheaper Android smartphones by December 2016

CEO John Chen of Blackberry on Friday confirmed its plans to launch two new Android-powered smartphones this year, even though it just launched the Priv Android smartphone at the end of 2015.

The company is eager to offer more devices because the Priv, which launched with a $700 price tag (now $650), was probably too high-end and expensive for people to consider.

“The fact that we came out with a high-end phone [as our first Android device] was probably not as wise as it should have been,” Chen told The National, while declining to say how many Privs were sold in the last quarter. “A lot of enterprise customers have said to us, ‘I want to buy your phone but $700 is a little too steep for me. I’m more interested in a $400 device’.”

During last week’s quarterly earnings reporting, Chen warned analysts and reporters that the company might exit the smartphone business by fall, 2016, if the division didn’t start making money.

In an interview with The National, an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper, the CEO suggested that one of the devices will have a hardware keyboard (which BlackBerry is famous for) while the other will be fully touchscreen. There’s no release date, but they should be significantly cheaper than the Priv’s original $750 price tag. The company will again be pushing its secure-enough-for-enterprise niche as a marketing point for its handsets with Chen hinting at a price around $400.

These two mid-range Android phones could very well be BlackBerry’s last chance to revive the division. Chen still thinks the company has something to offer when it comes to Android because of its commitment to security.

“We’re the only people who really secure Android, taking the security features of BlackBerry that everyone knows us for and making it more reachable for the market.”

Also, the CEO said there are no plans to release handsets using the BB10 operating system, though existing users will still get updates.

Chen confirmed that the company’s first Android phone was priced too high at $700 and had been a slow-selling disappointment.

“People do like our Priv, but there’s a much more limited audience and that segment seems to be saturated at the moment,” he said.

BlackBerry sold 600,000 phones in the first three months of 2016 across all its phone models, which was less than expected.

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