Home / Technology / Bits Blog: BlackBerry Unveils an Android-Powered Phone With Security Features

Bits Blog: BlackBerry Unveils an Android-Powered Phone With Security Features

OTTAWA —

Photo

John S. Chen, chief executive of BlackBerry.Credit Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

While Apple’s iPhone first undermined BlackBerry’s position as the leading maker of smartphones, phones using Google’s Android operating system finally relegated it to also-ran status.

On Monday, after years of marketing that dismissed Android and iPhones as unfit for serious minded business users, BlackBerry raised a white flag and introduced a phone called PRIV that

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit.”

Author Name

announces it is “powered by Android” when it is switched on.

Unlike the introduction of the BlackBerry 10 operating system and phones in 2013, the launch of the PRIV will not be a pivotal moment for the company. John S. Chen, who became chairman and chief executive after BlackBerry 10 fizzled, has made it clear that the company’s future is now based on selling software and services to corporations and governments.

But after a series of disappointments with BlackBerry 10 models, the PRIV may play a role in determining if BlackBerry continues to make phones in the future.

“I wouldn’t say it’s going to disappear overnight,” James Moar, an analyst with Juniper Research, a mobile phone research company based in Britain, said of BlackBerry’s phone business. “BlackBerry has that security brand image more than anyone else.”

Marty Beard, BlackBerry’s chief marketing officer, said in an interview that while BlackBerry will promote what he described as unique security advantages offered by the PRIV, he acknowledged that its choice of operating systems is intended to overcome the BlackBerry 10’s greatest shortcoming: its relatively small number of apps and, in some cases, their quality.

“We know that the number one complaint of a BlackBerry user is apps,” Mr. Beard said. While using Android resolves that problem, the downside, he said, was that “Android had that reputation for not being secure.”

Samsung, the dominant force in Android phones, tried to overcome that problem with a security system for corporate users known as Knox. BlackBerry was among the many companies Samsung partnered with on the project.

But Christian Kane, an analyst with Forrester Research, said Knox did not overcome Android security doubts at many businesses and governments. As a result, he said, no Android phone maker has firmly established itself with that segment of the market, leaving an opening for BlackBerry.

“I’m kind of cautiously optimistic about it,” Mr. Kane said of the PRIV.

Like all recent BlackBerry phones, regardless of their operating system, getting the maximum in security out of the PRIV involves having the device be connected to an employers’ server, which is running BlackBerry management and security software.

But Mr. Beard said the new phone included several hardware and software security improvements and additions that benefited all users and distinguish it from other Android phones.

Somewhat confusingly, BlackBerry will also continue to sell BlackBerry 10 phones. Mr. Beard said that is because some corporations and government users, presumably law enforcement agencies, have “very high-end security needs” which the Android phones cannot meet. While the company will continue to update that operating system, it is unclear if new phones based around it will be introduced.

Ramon Llamas, an analyst with I.D.C., said BlackBerry 10 will probably linger as there are many corporations and governments that “just want BlackBerry to be BlackBerry.”

When the first BlackBerry 10 phones appeared, the company was criticized for replacing its signature physical keyboards with a touch screen. The PRIV splits that difference with a 5.43 inch touchscreen, which is curved at the edges, as well a slide-out BlackBerry keyboard as an option to type texts and numbers. (The surface of that keyboard is also touch sensitive.) Unlike earlier slide-out keyboards, Mr. Kane said the PRIV’s lightness and thinness means that it isn’t top heavy when using the keyboard.

The phone will sell for $ 700. AT&T will be the only American wireless carrier offering the PRIV when it goes on sale on Friday. BlackBerry is also selling the phone online.

Widespread success for the PRIV will only come if BlackBerry can gain interest from a broad range of consumers, rather than the company’s comparatively small base of corporate and government users.

Mr. Kane said the phone’s higher than usual quality of design and construction may help with that, though that approach has not made HTC’s flagship Android phone, the HTC One, a runaway success.

Less clear is if the PRIV’s claims of better privacy and security will find an audience outside of corporate and government information technology departments.

“Individuals don’t care about security but they do care about privacy,” said Mr. Kane. “As much as they care about it, are they willing to pay for it?”

Loading…


NYT > Technology

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*