BlackBerry unveils cheaper Android phone

BlackBerry unveiled a second Android-based handset yesterday: a device combining Alphabet’s popular software and broad app catalogue with the Canadian company’s security and productivity features at a lower price.

By Cisco Eng. Shingie Lev Muringi 

The faded smartphone pioneer hopes the new DTEK50 will sell in greater numbers than the Priv, its first phone using the Android operating system, which CEO John Chen said suffered because of its high price.

The company said the 5.2-inch touch-screen-only DTEK50 is available from Tuesday for pre-order from BlackBerry’s online shop in the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands for $299 (about R4 300). It plans to begin shipping the device on 8 August.

“This is a good marriage of proposition and price point for enterprises,” said John Jackson, an analyst at IDC.

Shares in the Waterloo, Ontario-based company were up 1.4% at $7.18 on the Nasdaq and rose 1.6% to C$9.50 in Toronto.

During its November launch, the Priv, which features a slide-out keyboard, cost $699 (about R10 000) without a contract in the United States and C$899 without a contract in Canada. The company trimmed the Priv’s price in April.

Calling the DTEK50 “the world’s most secure Android smartphone”. BlackBerry said it will alert users if someone is making remote use of its camera or microphone, or accessing the phone’s location information.

BlackBerry did not announce any distribution deals with major US carriers, with initial US sales instead expected to come mostly via Best Buy, Amazon and BlackBerry’s own online store.

Canada’s biggest wireless carriers will all sell the device.

“The lack of specific detail on operator channels outside Canada says there’s still no path to massive volumes,” Jackson added.

BlackBerry recognised sales of roughly 500 000 devices in the three months to the end of May, down from some 1.1 million a year earlier as demand for its aging product portfolio sunk.

Once a dominant force in smartphones, BlackBerry now holds just a sliver of the global smartphone market. Earlier this month, it said it would cease production of its Classic handset, which uses its own BlackBerry 10 operating system.

Chen last month expressed confidence the company’s trimmed-down handset business can turn a profit by a self-imposed September deadline, even as some analysts urge the company to ditch the unit.

A third Android device is expected from BlackBerry in the coming months.

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