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BlackBerry execs: “Mission accomplished” with less-than-a-million phone sold in 2017

TCL/BlackBerry sold 850,000 phones total over 2017, yet is all-smiles at MWC 2018. Is less than a million phones sold really good news for the company?

Published onFebruary 26, 2018

  • BlackBerry executives gave statements to The Verge about their positive notes on 2017.
  • However, data shows BlackBerry only sold 850,000 phones total over 2017, a dismal number.
  • Can BlackBerry do well in this smartphone market, or is the company delusional?

Back in 2016, the budget phone maker TCL bought the rights to create BlackBerry phones. Its first flagship device under this arrangement, the BlackBerry KeyOne, launched last year during Mobile World Congress 2017. Now at MWC 2018, BlackBerry execs are all smiles about how well they perceive BlackBerry to be doing.

Francois Mahieu is in charge of marketing at BlackBerry/TCL, and Alain Lejeune is the global general manager for BlackBerry Mobile. The two gave statements to The Verge that positively ran down all Blackberry’s achievements in 2017, including that the KeyOne is available in 50 countries and sold by over 100 carriers.

However, that BlackBerry only sold about 850,000 phones in all of 2017 was curiously left out of their statements. That’s not just for the KeyOne, it’s the total phone sales of all BlackBerry devices in 2017.

Selling less than a million phones over the span of a year is pretty dismal. Essential shipped only 90,000 phones in 2017, but its very first device didn’t hit until August, and the company has no brand history to lead off a release. BlackBerry had phones on shelves the whole year and has decades of history. 850,000 phones is, well, really bad.

It would really only be a “mission accomplished” moment if BlackBerry had already set the bar pretty low for the year.

The problem that BlackBerry faces is the simultaneous advantage and disadvantage of the brand name in the modern smartphone world. The BlackBerry brand has a reputation for security. It also has a reputation for clunky software with anemic app support. BlackBerry runs on Android now, giving users access to the Google Play Store’s millions of apps, but many consumers don’t know that. That’s a huge obstacle the company needs to overcome.

Ultimately, BlackBerry has a hard road ahead if it wants to stand out in this saturated market. The KeyOne’s physical keyboard is a standout feature that people didn’t seem to want and therefore didn’t buy. It’s nice that BlackBerry/TCL is so upbeat about its standing, but it might need a bit of a reality check.

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