Priced to…sell? Are the BlackBerry Priv and HTC One A9 too expensive for their own good?

by: Matthew BensonNovember 22, 2015

htc one a9 first impressions aa (3 of 45)

Despite being two diligently different companies, both HTC and BlackBerry share some surprising similarities: (1) both are established players in the mobile game, (2) both have found their fortunes are no longer the same, and (3) both have released new flagship hardware this month. In the case of HTC, the contentious One A9 is being offered, and in the case of BlackBerry, we have the Priv, nee Venice.

To be sure, both devices are solid pieces of hardware, with the Priv occupying the high-end spec segment and the A9 going for more middle-ground. The problem however, is largely the pricing of each, a situation compounded by the fact that neither company can seemingly afford to alienate any potential customers.

The BlackBerry Priv

blackberry priv review aa (2 of 32)

Despite all the rumors and leaks for the “Venice“, one thing very few people actually mused on was the cost of such a smartphone. It became clear the device would be expensive based on the curved 5.4-inch QHD AMOLED display and high spec internals including a Snapdragon 808, 3GB of RAM, an 18-megapixel rear camera, a physical keyboard slider, a 3,410mAh battery, and all of BlackBerry’s home-grown security software.

Still, when the pricing was finally announced, $700 seemed slightly high for a device like this: BlackBerry is not the most common answer when one asks for “some popular Android OEMs” given that it literally wasn’t one period until just now. Likewise, some may have lingering fears that the company might be nearing the end of its hardware plans and thus the Priv is an extra risky proposition, a bit ironic given that BlackBerry itself is trying to sell this device in part by the promise of better security for Android.

blackberry priv review aa (21 of 32)

The fact that Marshmallow (Android 6.0) won’t even hit the device until next year is already a minor irk for some, and the device doesn’t have a fingerprint sensor despite its release in a post-Nexus Imprint world. If the asking price was $500 at most, many customers might not even hesitate, but at $700 it is more directly competing with the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+, or even LG’s new V10.

The HTC One A9

To HTC’s credit – or detriment – the company’s American pricing of the One A9 was seemingly a fair deal: $400. The trouble was, shortly after its announcement, the “limited time” initial cost was discovered to be far more ephemeral than anyone had expected. Specifically, the promotion ended on November 7th. From that day forward, the device would be sold at its real retail value: $500.

htc one a9 review aa (9 of 29)

The specs are decidedly mid-range, though with a twist of premium thrown in. Highlights include a 5-inch Full HD AMOLED display, an Octa-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 SoC, 2/3GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel rear camera, Quick Charging, and the first non-Google deice to ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow with HTC itself promising majorly expedited updates.

HTC One A9

The Case Against

That HTC is charging $500 for the One A9 is a questionably decision at best. The device, at that price point, is thereby more expensive than the OnePlus Two, the Axon Phone, the Motorola Moto X Pure Edition, and – believe it or not – even an unlocked Galaxy S6 depending on where it’s purchased from. This would be all well and good, were it not for the fact that the A9 is a mid-range phone with a small screen. All others in the list have significantly higher specs.

ZTE Axon

HTC is not exactly in a position of power these days. After making some solid recovery last year, the lackluster sales of this year’s One M9 hurt finances. Currently, the Taiwanese OEM has not only been delisted from the main Taiwan stock inded, but has also decided to forgo offering any guidance estimates for the upcoming 4th Quarter earnings.

The A9 has already been accused of being an iPhone clone, even though the company insists Apple is the copy-cat. This could appeal to Android fans who secretly wish they had an iPhone (or at least the design of one), however the pricing is a major problem.

The Verge Apple HTC A9

Some have been very vocal of their feelings about HTC’s design language.

The Verge

With BlackBerry, it’s simply an issue of the company’s image. Many young Android users have never even used an OG BlackBerry and have no reverence to the company whatsoever. Others have long since made the jump, and yet even another group of Android fans are literally waiting for the OEM to declare bankruptcy (something that some “h8rs” have been saying about HTC as well). BlackBerry is arguably too little too late, and the fact that they are charging such a high price for the phone when it needs as many customers as possible to buy it, seems like a poor pricing decision.

Moto X Pure Edition

Why it makes cents (The Case For)

In order to understand why this pair of products cost more than you might expect, let us consider both the pricing, and the production itself.


As far as the actual cost itself goes, neither of these devices are actually that expensive. Considering that the Galaxy Note 5 launched at around $850, the $700 BlackBerry is asking for the Priv isn’t actually that outlandish, especially given its curved QHD OLED display. Likewise the software itself is far more geared towards security-oriented consumers and, perhaps even more so, corporate customers. BlackBerry has been immensely successful in the enterprise realm, and there is no reason why the Priv can’t be viewed as intended for such a market as well.

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With HTC, the One A9 is made of metal and thus is also a far more costly affair than a simple plastic piece. Likewise, the Taiwanese OEM has included 3GB of RAM in many variants, as well as a newer Snapdragon 600-series SoC. Beyond that, HTC products making use of the “One” moniker are rarely cheap, and this product in particular is somewhat more than a “One M9 Mini” might otherwise be considered given the new design and such.

The whole reason they seem “expensive” is largely due to various OEMs – many in China – bringing down the average cost of devices and thus the consumer market is now becoming un-receptive to what were once standard price points.


samsung galaxy s6 edge logo mwc 2015 c 1

Samsung has a much larger production run for its major devices than most other rivals do.

With respect to price as a factor of manufacturing costs, unlike rivals such as Samsung or even LG, neither HTC nor BlackBerry have production runs as comparably large. This means that every device arguably costs more to manufacture, and therefore part (or all) of that cost is passed onto the customer. It makes sense to keep numbers low, because should any given device fail to sell, it will tangibly end up as a write-off for that fiscal year, similar to Microsoft with its $900 million write off from the original Surface RT.

This is exactly why companies like OnePlus have limited production runs and the invitation system: because they can’t afford to overestimate demand for the international market. In China, the phone is readily sold with no loop-holes. Even Carl Pei has mentioned the invite system as a way to defer waiting times of multiple months while more devices are manufactured, though due to popularity that has even become less realistic.

Wrap Up

While we have discussed some cost-related content in this post, namely the problems and the possible reasons, the ultimate test is what you think. After all, even the best device EVAR is ultimately much less if no one wants to buy it, and companies like Sony have seen this first hand with sales of the PS Vita hardware, for example. While there does seem to be substantial interest in the Priv, it remains to be seen as to how it ultimately fares, as it does the HTC One A9.

What do you think? Are these devices priced too high for their own good? Or are the prices sufficient for the product you would be purchasing? Please feel free to take our surveys below and then drop us your thoughts in the comments section!

  • The truth is OUT there

    Blackberry & HTC were thinking that they brand name is still have premium value in it, thus they were over-valuing their brand name. HTC should know that they made a good device, but the competition from the main land is catching up, and selling the device at more affordable price. Even, the big names, like motorola were having the snapdragon 600-series phone in US$300. The A9 with mid-range CPU, should really goes BELLOW what HTC wanted. It should be price about US$ 300. The same as Moto X-Play.

    As for Blackberry. Their brand name is really not premium anymore. Their brand name ALREADY TARNISHED with bad BB OS7 & over-promised BB10. Their security might be good, but android, iOS, WP is already secured enough for most people. BB like an emperor who say he has the most beautiful clothes, but in fact he’s not wearing any. BB should really sell the priv in US$400 price range.

    • charlie2010

      I’ll pass your advice on to CEO John Chen, perhaps in between meetings running a multibillion dollar company and serving as director with Disney and Well Fargo he can correct his mistakes based on your coach potato advice.

      • MariusMuntean

        Yeah you should :))) sorry pal, he was saying the truth! If you are not able to see it..well your problem.

  • Goran

    It’s funny to see this disqussion in USA….about HTC A9….what do u say on HTC A9 price in Europe for 2/16 gb model? From 550 to 700$? And European unlocked version won’t get fast updates bcs of software in it…. HTC really seems to be delusional. I am starting to think that they have some secret reason to destroy themselves….otherwise I can not find rational explanation for A9 price outside USA and all these models that came after m9….all soon to be forgotten and unoriginal and overpriced…me, e, e+…etc.
    I am really sad. Was a big fan of HTC phones….but I am starting to be very angry with them. Their actions and phones becoming completely irrational.

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  • aftersleep

    The Priv price is fully justified. It’s the only Android phone with a physical keyboard. People who want a physical keyboard will pay whatever to buy it (I’m one of those). I don’t care about the blackberry brand, but the phone actually surpassed my expectation. Very well made and high quality. People who don’t need a keyboard will be very unlikely to buy the phone, no matter how cheap it is. It’s a niche product, they might as well sell it at a niche price. As it said in the article, the production run is likely very small, and therefore it’s impossible for them to lower the price. The market for physical keyboard is also incredibly small but also incredibly stubborn.

    For blackberry to not lose money, they shouldn’t have too many models, perhaps only one phone every two years, but make it the best.

    • Reality Check

      You would be surprised to know that BB Priv sell number is still way bellow the needed number for BB to survive.

      • 4ron

        BlackBerry can survive without any hardware sales. You need to get the proper financial information before you make such a statement.

        • Are you sure?

          Perhaps you should be reading more. BB enterprise got a hit from lots of competitor now.

          • 4ron

            You need to get the facts. BlackBerry is cash flow positive and has $3 billion in assets. They are expanding their software business besides reviving hardware. Again, read the financials.

          • Karly Johnston

            Good is losing $180m so they are negative.

          • 4ron

            Not true. We’ll see what the next quarterly report says even with the Good Technology acquisition. You are making an assumption.

          • Are you sure?

            It is a widely known that Goods Technology is in negative for years, and about to be Chapter 11!!!

          • 5ron

            Chicken + Chicken =!= (is not) Eagle

          • Are you sure?

            1. BB is NOT cash flow positive.

            2. They have $3 billion assets, but they also have $1 billion+ debts.

            3. They expanding their software business because that’s the only way to survive. All that were in this business were negative and about to be bankrupt (i.e. Goods Technology). If BB manage to get all the competitor, and none able to compete, BB will be the last company stand (LOL)

            In Summary, BB is in deep shit!!!

          • Are you sure?

            they also already spent big-$$$ to acquire Goods tech.

          • Garyth

            BlackBerry has no debt where do you get your info. They have almost two billion in cash only

          • Are you saying?

            From Google (Google is my friend)

            “BlackBerry Ltd (NAS:BBRY)
            Debt to Equity 0.37 (As of Aug. 2015)

            BlackBerry Ltd’s current portion of long-term debt for the quarter that ended in Aug. 2015 was $0 Mil. BlackBerry Ltd’s long-term debt for the quarter that ended in Aug. 2015 was $1,322 Mil. BlackBerry Ltd’s total equity for the quarter that ended in Aug. 2015 was $3,537 Mil. BlackBerry Ltd’s debt to equity for the quarter that ended in Aug. 2015 was 0.37.

            A high debt to equity ratio generally means that a company has been
            aggressive in financing its growth with debt. This can result in
            volatile earnings as a result of the additional interest expense.”


            Capital Structure
            Total Debt to Total Equity 49.75
            Total Debt to Total Capital 33.22
            Total Debt to Total Assets 26.07
            Long-Term Debt to Equity 49.75
            Long-Term Debt to Total Capital 33.22
            At a Glance
            Net Income $-342.08M

          • charlie2010

            re: BB enterprise got a hit from lots of competitor now.

            They just bought one of their their biggest competitors, Good Technologies. Another major competitor, MobileIron, is going out of business within a year unless someone rescues them with a buyout. Another major competitor is Blackphone, the PRIV is going to drive them under next within a year as well. All the critics said these companies were supposed to overtake Blackberry, those critics are awfully quiet these days…

          • Are you sure?

            In summary.
            All those company that think they could sell security with high price is going down. Because all the standard security is already good enough. And those BB, Good Tech, MobileIron, Blackphone, etc bring nothing worth.

          • charlie2010

            re: Because all the standard security is already good enough.

            I suspect the G20 and DoD think otherwise…..perhaps you can email them and let them know their security standards are wrong.

  • IqaluitZen

    With the Blackberry Priv you get security (something Android has been seriously lacking), you get a slider physical keyboard, you get the Blackberry HUB, business apps and build quality with top end specs (it’s still cheaper than the newest Samsung) and it has a micro SD slot capable of supporting 2 TB of expandable memory.

    I think the Priv is priced just right tbh.
    It seems that the consumer does as well —–> The Priv is SOLD OUT just about everywhere.

    • Reality Check

      Sold out?
      How many?
      BB CEO say they need 5 million phone / year (1.25 million/quarter) to survive.
      and right now bb only sell about 800 thousands/quarter!!!

      • IqaluitZen

        You’ll have to wait until Blackberry released their quarterly numbers to find out, but they said they had more than in previous releases of BB10 devices, so the number should be decent.

    • JEng

      the NOTE keeps downloading and we don’t know how to fix it plus android has no security – so hopefully the PRIV will be discounted and we can afford it because we can’t go back to APPLE which we find untrustworthy and overrated.

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    • Svnjay

      It’s sold out everywhere because supply is low. BlackBerry is not expecting it to sell well.

      • IqaluitZen

        Granted Blackberry didn’t produce millions of the Priv, but they have said that they have sold far more initially than any other BB10 device previously.
        From that statement, one can extrapolate an estimation.
        Previous BB10 devices initially sold more than 400k (Passport, Classic and the Leap).
        I think Blackberry was caught off guard on how well the Priv got received and how strong the demand has been.

  • 4ron

    This is an interesting poll. In the case of the BlackBerry one needs to see first hand it’s worth .. and having received mine I say unequivocally “yes”. There is a lot built into this device. You cannot go on specs alone. The experience is what counts. The author of this review presents a fair preface to the argument.

    • Reality Check

      The real question is…
      1. Will any android user who never used BB before will think the same as you?
      2. Will any BB user who already jump to android (because BB suck?) think this is what they want?

      That’s 2 is MORE important than what old-bb user think, because, there’s not much bb user left in the wild.

      • 4ron

        To answer your question, there are plenty of ex BlackBerry users who will show interest in this phone….and beyond that a substantial number of those who will appreciate its features and purchase it. Let’s see what the sales figures reveal.

        • Are you sure?

          If there’s still lots of ex BB user, BB won’t be in deep shit right now.

  • MAno

    Stop complaining Americans. Come to Canada where an iPhone 6s plus costs $1300 and the BB priv costs $900

    • Joeyfrombklyn

      Overpriced in Canada is definitely not nice, but I still think these phones are to expensive in the U.S. as well, its just our northern cousins are getting screwed a little harder.

      • MAno

        A little is’t even close to justifying the price. got to and check out those monstrous prices and get back to me, if devices were that cheap in Canada as they are in the U.S I’d be getting a new phone every 6 months!

        • Joeyfrombklyn

          WhollyCrap I just did, you were definitely right it’s a little more then a little harder of a screwjob,You most definitely have my sympathies, and I say that sans sarcasm

  • Joeyfrombklyn

    From a respected security company,,30565.html
    Here is copperhead security’s take on blackberries so called lock down security.

    From what I’ve been reading B B really blew it with the priv, the majority of reviews that I’ve read have been savage, and that’s putting it mildly, so if they don’t have the security thing locked down, what do they have except a clunky cramped physical keyboard.

    Thanks but I’ll stick with my nexus 5 & note 4, as far as security common sense is your friend I’ve heard horror stories for years of the nefarious infections one is susceptible to on android and I have yet to know anyone whose had a problem.

    Btw) Hi my name is J.F.B. and I am a former crackberry addict

    • charlie2010

      re: the majority of reviews that I’ve read have been savage,

      You lost credibility with that statement, the majority of reviews are favorable.

      • Joeyfrombklyn

        Well chuck, while I’m heartbroken that I’ve lost credibility with you (how will I go on with life)
        If I get a chance I will share some links to the savage reviews I spoke of, of course you could be correct in that for some twitched reason I made it all up, forgot about the possibility that I’ve read only the negative ones unless, again I made the whole thing up. O.o

        • charlie2010

          re: If I get a chance I will share some links to the savage reviews I spoke of

          ….I wont hold my breath waiting, I called your bluff.

          • Joeyfrombklyn

            Ok chuckie you got me, and while perhaps savage might have been to strong a word and I’ll admit to it, the intent was not malicious on my part, just a poor choice of words and again I’m a former bb die hard, I just couldn’t wait around for them to catch up.
            You on the other hand could have been a little more diplomatic about it, but upon looking at your posts…….. Well its clear that you are the defender of all things BlackBerry, which is totally cool with me, if that’s your thing.

            So I’m moving on, but you won’t, and just out of my morbid sense of curiosity, do you work for rim or do you take it upon yourself to be the defender of all things BlackBerry?

            “Called my bluff ” indeed.)

          • charlie2010

            dont work for them or even own a blackberry phone……love following the comeback story, better than a prime time television drama.

      • Joeyfrombklyn
        • charlie2010

          I’ll see your 1 and raise you 20

          • Are you sure?

            Interesting…. (NOT)!!!
            Anything from is BIAS and can’t be trusted
            It will only highlight the good of it’s own product.

          • charlie2010

            Its a list of 20 other websites, did you even read the link?

  • Bruce Banner

    If the BlackBerry priv is as productive as the passport it’ll be well worth the money.

    The passport really mobilised my office, lifestyle has improved since I purchased that phone. I was hoping it would also doubled as my non work phone but still find myself carrying my q10 outside business hours (which has my work number in it).

    Would feel much more comfortable holding a priv to my ear than something with the girth of my passport.

  • Priv is a really gud attempt by Blackberry.Congrats for that.Should have come a little earlier , but at this price it’s going to be another passport.Offcourse it offers enterprise level security features and promises timely security patches but 700$ is too much for a company that no longer has a niche market for itself it used to have.Now it has attract as many customers as possible and start rebuilding the company.Anything between $500-$600 would have been the appropriate pricing.

    Considering HTC A9 There’s really nothing to talk about it.HTC is over ambitious or just struggling to make every penny it makes profitable.$400 was a gud price of this build and could have been a genuine mid-tier entry for the One series.For $500 , you could get a One M9 on ebay.HTC is clearly out of it’s minds!!

    • The truth is OUT there

      Instead of security, I’ll be more interested in transparency
      BlackBerry Ltd Does Not Plan To Issue Transparency Report

      “Following the Snowden saga, every U.S. cell carrier publishes a
      transparency report detailing the number of government data demands it
      received. However, a spokesperson from BlackBerry confirmed that the
      company has no plan to release transparency reports in the near future.

      BlackBerry is an outlier in the current mobile marketplace and is not
      considering modernizing its corporate mantra despite the fact that it
      was revered as an encrypted email service provider once. According to
      comScore, BlackBerry’s share of the U.S. mobile market has come down from 13.4% three years ago to 1.2% at present. ”

      (more at: )

  • bikrame

    As both BlackBerry and HTC being failing companies I think they should have keep price little low. Since nobody like to spend 700 and 500 for devices which which is made for comeback of company and new to theirself. If priv was around 500, I would try it but paying 700 just to see how it is BIG NO.
    Instead I get Lg V10 which I know is better then g4 I was using.

    • Prince Choming

      With Priv build quality (check the anantech review & also the AA review), I think US$400 would still be hard to sell.

  • ichuck7

    The HTC One A9 feels amazing in the hand. When I held it, i instantly wanted it, i didn’t care what the specs were. However, the battery life gives me great pause. I like the micro sd and obviously the build quality, but a $400 price would have been nicer.