I’ve been sitting on this editorial for a little bit, but with last night’s report from Reuters, it seems as good a time as any to lay out the argument in favor of BlackBerry making an Android device.
Naturally, the thought of BlackBerry making the hardware for a device that runs Google’s OS sounds counterproductive to their BB10 efforts, but if you really think about it, it could actually be beneficial to it for a few reasons.
BlackBerry’s hardware division needs to make more money
BlackBerry 10 has been out for over two years, and the company’s mobile market share is currently under 1%. If market share numbers aren’t your thing, then let’s take sales into account. In 2014, BlackBerry sold just 7 million devices all year – a big drop off from years past. The downward trend hasn’t changed this year either as shown in their first earnings report back in March. While BlackBerry has been profitable as a whole, hardware sales haven’t been great and that’s important. They’ve yet to reach the 10 million devices per year mark John Chen himself had set for this division. This has led many tech analysts to believe they will eventually drop their mobile hardware division all together if things don’t change and it produces more revenue soon. A great way to increase this revenue is to make a product that could make a serious impact in the consumer mobile market. Believe it or not, that would be an Android-powered BlackBerry device.
BlackBerry’s Slider would be a hit in the Android world
There isn’t a single OEM out there right now that produces a device anywhere close to what a BlackBerry Slider running Android would be. BlackBerry fans love to talk about how cluttered Android is and how even companies that make great hardware are struggling. However, everyone fails to realize a Slider would stand out from the crowd because it has a beautiful display and the BlackBerry keyboard – the most iconic, and respected hardware BlackBerry makes. Physical keyboards are still wanted by smartphone owners in 2015. Typo LLC showed us that people are willing to buy a stupid case in order to add a keyboard to their phones and make it easier to type. The market is still there for physical keyboards.
However, right now, if you want a physical keyboard on your phone, you have to buy a BlackBerry 10 device. But what about all those people that want a physical keyboard but don’t want the BlackBerry 10 operating system? Why can’t BlackBerry sell hardware to them too and give them Android as an alternative to BlackBerry 10?
The keyboard and screen combination on the Slider is also hugely important. Previous Android devices have had keyboards and have flopped because their keyboards have been crap, and their screens were small. Having a keyboard on a Slider form factor doesn’t take anything away from the display. In fact, this curved screen will be one of the top of the line displays out there. Who wouldn’t want the best of both worlds in one product?
If you still don’t believe people would buy this phone, read The Verge’s comment section for this post.
Another one of the biggest argument I’ve read against BlackBerry making an Android smartphone is that “no OEMs are making money with Android.” They cite the example of HTC as one of the companies that is struggling to produce big numbers with their smartphones. Fortunately, this isn’t the only manufacturer out there. Motorola, for its part, shipped 10 million Android smartphones last quarter. That’s more than BlackBerry ships in a year. Aside from Moto, OnePlus, Xiaomi, LG, and Samsung have made a ton of money with Android by finding their identity within that market and pricing their devices appropriately. It’s obvious that even in the Android market the right product can sell and sell well. If BlackBerry can position themselves as an Android manufacturer that delivers a high-end keyboard along with great specs, they can make a huge impact in the market. Even if they’re not that successful with it, and they sell just one or two million Android smartphones a quarter on top of its BlackBerry 10 device sales, the hardware division would all of a sudden look more and more profitable. Remember, the more money BlackBerry makes, the more resources they can put behind making BlackBerry 10 devices going forward.
Making an Android smartphone doesn’t mean the end for BlackBerry 10
Most of the comments we’ve received in our channel have been from worried users that are afraid that making an Android smartphone would spell the death of BlackBerry 10. In fact, as shown above, the results would probably be the opposite. The BlackBerry Slider could very well be available as both a BlackBerry 10 device, and an Android one. No, not dual-booting, that would be dumb. Instead, like the HTC One M8 that has a Windows Phone and Android version, BlackBerry could make two completely separate variants of the Slider each with its own OS. The hardcore BlackBerry fans can pick up the BB10 Slider, and Android fans can pick up the other Slider.
Whatever BlackBerry decides to do in the next few months will have a big impact on the future of their hardware business. If their focus is shifting to software more than hardware, we may see big changes coming. One of these changes should be the addition of an Android smartphone to the portfolio. Not every phone that BlackBerry makes is intended for everyone, and if you’re thinking you’d never buy a BlackBerry running Android, that’s fine. This device wouldn’t be made for you.
No one is suggesting BlackBerry give up on BlackBerry 10, and its loyal user base, but expanding that circle to include Android users that want a keyboard, and BlackBerry hardware, but also want Google’s OS, is a must.