Saturday, 7 November 2015

BlackBerry Priv gets generally positive reception; stock price rises

What could be the last phone BlackBerry will ever manufacture is getting a warm response from analysts and consumers.

The Priv went on sale Friday across Canada. It’s the Waterloo company’s first phone to run the Android operating system, and its first in some time to focus on the wants and needs of mainstream audiences.

“While users want security, they also want privacy. Our focus with the Priv is on user privacy,” product manager Michael Clewley told CTV News.

Whether it was the focus on privacy or a sense of hometown loyalty, the Priv was a quick sellout at a Bell store on Bridgeport Road in Waterloo.

“I was very surprised to see just how quickly the product walked out of the store,” said store employee Cantrys Rondeau.

“It was incredibly busy. It was all high energy. People were really excited to get their hands on the product.”

Reviews from the business and journalism worlds also showed reason for optimism.

Michael Hainsworth of BNN called the Priv the “best Android device for a BlackBerry fan,” noting its slide-out keyboard as one key feature for BlackBerry loyalists.

“The build quality on this phone is really quite impressive,” he said.

A review of the Priv from the Associated Press highlighted the phone’s security and privacy features and battery life, while suggesting that users familiar with touchscreen keyboards may have difficulty adapting to the Priv’s physical keyboard.

Reviews also highlighted the Android OS allowing for a much larger selection of apps than had ever been possible on BlackBerry phones.

Ramon Llamas, research manager of mobile phones at market research firm IDC Canada, said there was “absolutely stuff to like” about the Priv for anyone who had used a BlackBerry before.

"This is a buttoned-up device that seems more at home in the boardroom than it would at the bar or pool hall," he said.

The stock market also appeared to react positively to the launch of the Priv, as BlackBerry’s stock rose 6.5 per cent to close at $10.65 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen has said that the company’s hardware division may be shut down if it doesn’t show signs of profitability by the end of February.

Were that to happen, BlackBerry’s focus would tilt even more toward security software, which has been a growth area for the firm in recent years.

Chen estimates that about three million phones would have to be sold by Feb. 29, 2016, for the company to break even on their manufacturing.

BlackBerry claims that advance orders for the Priv have been higher than levels for its recent Passport, Classic and Leap releases, although the company has not provided specific figures.

Without a carrier contract, the Priv retails for $899 at BlackBerry’s Canadian web store – making it the most expensive Android phone on the market.

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