Blackberry has launched its first touchscreen-only Android handset, in a bid to diversify its range of devices. The company says its Dtek50 smartphone offers improved security over rival Android devices, and will cost less than its previous handset Priv.
It is the firm’s second Android handset after switching focus away from its struggling BB10 platform.
One analyst said the phone was the “right move” but that the company still faced an “uphill battle” with devices.
“The real challenge is whether Blackberry can convince enough corporate buyers to buy a batch of mid-range phones,” said Nick McQuire, analyst at CCS Insight.
“A lot of that comes down to the beauty of the device and what it has inside, but more importantly the price.”
The Dtek50 is a touchscreen-only device, without the physical keyboard often associated with Blackberry.
The firm’s boss, John Chen, has been open about exploring new partnerships to reduce the cost of handset manufacture.
The Dtek50 shares the design of the Idol 4S – a handset produced by Alcatel, a Chinese-owned rival.
“It’s certainly a low cost, low risk way of going about it,” said Mr McQuire.
“It’s a necessary move for the handset business and delivers on a promise Mr Chen has been making, about complementing the Priv with a number of other devices.”
But Blackberry says the phone has unique internal hardware, with its chips protected by cryptographic keys to prevent tampering and thwart hackers.
Blackberry was once the predominant name in smartphones, but was slow to adapt to an era of data-hungry multimedia devices with big touchscreens, ushered in by Apple’s iPhone in 2007.
Its new operating system – BB10 – was launched four years after Google had released its Android software. By then, Android had taken the largest share of the market.
Blackberry released its first Android smartphone in 2015. But the Priv – a large touchscreen device with a slide-out keyboard – came with a premium price tag (£579 in the UK) that put some people off.
“The fact that we came out with a high end phone was probably not as wise as it should have been,” Mr Chen later told The National.
Although it is best known for its handsets, Blackberry says a majority of its revenue comes from the software it licenses to companies and governments.
That includes its enterprise server products, which let companies manage the smartphones they give to employees.
Mr Chen has been clear that he would not continue to produce phone hardware if it became unsustainable.
“The biggest challenge Blackberry faces is that it has to consistently educate customers that it’s not a dying company,” said Mr McQuire.
“Fundamentally its software business is good, and financially has been much stabilised in the last 12 months.
“But news reporters only tend to touch the handset business, that’s what people like to read about.
“Its software security business doesn’t get the same headlines. It’s a decent business, but it’s boring.”