A few months ago, we caught wind of a rumor that BlackBerry would soon further its utilization of Android beyond just a runtime. Currently, BlackBerry uses the Android 4.3 runtime within the BlackBerry 10 operating system.
With this setup there are limitations, which restrict BlackBerry from using Google Play Services. It has been said, BlackBerry has apparently always had the option to change it, but it would require them adding the “powered by Android” logo on the boot-screen.
Fast-forward to a week ago, a Reuters report has added credence to what we discussed in our podcast months ago, with claims that BlackBerry will offer an Android-powered device alongside its BB10 offerings. The report cited the BlackBerry 10 Slider as such a device.
However, we’ve learned that it does not appear the Slider will be Android-powered. We’ve been told BlackBerry is in fact working on an Android device, but with the emerging markets in mind. The company’s first Android-powered device is said to be low-end. We’ve also learned of a new device called the BlackBerry “Prague.”
The “Prague” is said to be an upcoming low-end, all-touch device, which will be similar in form-factor to the Z3. Though, we have yet to confirm if the device codenamed “Prague” is the low-end Android-powered BlackBerry currently in testing.[quote_box_left]“…the market [in India] for smartphones grew by a whopping 300 percent last year… While only 10 percent of India’s 700 million-plus mobile phone users were using smartphones at the start of 2013, the figure shot up exponentially to 29 percent by Q1 2014.”[/quote_box_left]
It is still unclear what the Android operating system on a BlackBerry will be like. It would make sense for BlackBerry to have designed a BB10 skin for Android, to give it a more seamless integration to its device portfolio.
But, the biggest question most will ponder: Why would BlackBerry enter the Android sphere with a low-end device? Simple, the mature smartphone market is slowing. Whereas, the emerging markets will continue to soar at 32.4%, showed the 2014 IDC forecast.
IDC cited Android as the catalyst behind smartphone growth in the emerging markets. Additionally, the IDC reported that emerging markets would represent 73.5% of worldwide smartphone shipments, or 920.8 million in 2014; 88.4% of these units being Android devices.[quote_box_right]“Among the Chinese Internet users, the proportion of mobile Internet users rose from 74.5% at the end of 2012 to 81%, much higher than the proportion of the Internet users that access the Internet via other devices. It is indicated that mobile phone is still the major driving force for the growth of Chinese Internet users.”[/quote_box_right]
BlackBerry could now capture segments of this vastly growing market, driven by Android. These low-end devices have very thin profit margins. It would not be farfetched to believe BlackBerry will likely utilize its partnership with Foxconn in developing an Android-powered BlackBerry.
Nevertheless, we’ve been told the BlackBerry “Prague” is expected to release in August 2015, a few months ahead of the BlackBerry “Venice” Slider, but this may be subject to change.
There have been rumors that there are two Android-powered BlackBerry devices currently in production. At this time, we only have confirmed the one, which points to the “Prague” currently being readied for this year. Not to say that a second does not allegedly exist.
It should be strongly understood, while BlackBerry is expanding its portfolio with Android, the company seemingly plans to continue BlackBerry 10 support at this time, with OS 10.3.3 having just been announced. This does not in any way symbolize the end of BlackBerry.
With the Android operating system, BlackBerry can expand its product offerings and better position its software services. This will more than likely be a positive driving force for new short-term and long-term revenue growth.