It’s almost hard to believe, but at this point in time last year the mobile tech world was seemingly salivating at the prospect of the BlackBerry “Venice”, the device that would eventually go on to be branded as the Priv. The prospect was set to shake up the Android world something fierce and even featured a strangely familiar face to boot.
Fast forward to June 2016 and not only has BlackBerry’s first Android phone failed to thrive, and this has now resulted in at least one service provider deciding to drop the device: By all accounts, it looks like the Uncarrier has unfriended Waterloo’s offering, as the Priv is no longer listed on T-Mobile’s website.
In fact, not only has the Priv disappeared but even should one follow a manual link to the product page, they will be merely greeted with a blank, generic “BlackBerry” listing page. This of course, makes sense given that T-Mobile doesn’t have any other BlackBerry products to offer.
The news comes just days after a report surfaced which indicated a high-level AT&T executive described the BlackBerry Priv as “really struggling”. Said executive also told CNET that AT&T has been seeing “more returns than [it] would like”. Given the well documented trouble with the Priv’s sales this shouldn’t come as a surprise, either, however it is clear there is trouble brewing on more than one front.
Perhaps more curiously however, whereas AT&T was offering the Priv from its release back in November of last year, T-Mobile didn’t begin to sell it until the end of January 2016, which means the device has only been available to its customers for just under half a year at this point. The fact that John Ledger’s company is still charging $529.99 for a Galaxy S5 – released in early 2014 – and that said product is an active SKU to boot, serves to cast an even darker shadow over the potential problems posed by the Priv.
Arguably the biggest culprit for the BlackBerry Priv’s poor performance may be its pricing, with the device retailing for over $700 when it first hit stores last year. This high figured cost was something that was replicated in other territories as well, including the more price-sensitive market of India, where lower cost devices have been thriving.
That BlackBerry could ask such a high amount for a product made of plastic was all the more difficult given that last year saw many metal made devices, and even Samsung had finally gone to glass. The fact that BlackBerry had zero Android presence as well meant that anyone curious about the offering might have been dissuaded due to the high cost of entry.
Still, the Priv was BlackBerry’s first Android device and therefore it can’t be faulted too harshly for having miscalculated, at least from the view of one without vested stakes in the company and product’s performance. The Venice sure did get a heaping helping of hype and had many people talking about it online. It’s likely that whatever market testing Waterloo did was met with similar enthusiasm. In addition there are supply chain and manufacturing costs that have to be considered in making a brand new device, especially one that made use of a dual curved display.
BlackBerry CEO, John Chen, has made statements that indicate his company plans to bring out two new products in the current fiscal year, though of a more mid-range affair. If this week is any indication however, it may be more difficult to sell them to the sellers themselves – i.e. the carriers – given the souring grapes that have been over-ripened by the ongoing Priv problems.
While it’s possible T-Mobile will put the Priv back on its website in the coming days or weeks, chances are seemingly slim of any such doing. What do you think? Is this just the latest in a string of problems for the Priv or do you feel the device has been misunderstood by the market? Leave a comment below!