Note: While this piece does contain various supportive evidence to buttress the theories contained within, the content itself is purely speculative and should not be taken as fact. Furthermore, the very product the piece revolves around, the BlackBerry Venice, has yet to be confirmed by BlackBerry itself.
Some years ago, the RIM BlackBerry product line could be seen everywhere. In the days before the modern smartphone, it was the go-to source for business productivity, for secure messaging, and for top tech. Things changed when Apple introduced the iPhone, and further metamorphosed once Google’s Android entered the scene. As time moved on, even the most loyal of BlackBerry users began to consider other options, even if a certain POTUS is smitten with the darling device. RIM, now having changed its name to BlackBerry, has been in a protracted period of turmoil not unlike that which has befallen HTC.
The company did make some minor waves when it decided to release its industry leading BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for Android, having previously allowed Android apps to be side-loaded onto its newer hardware. Up until a few days ago, the idea of Samsung and BlackBerry collaborating on a product might have seemed far-fetched, but looking back in time a few months, things were decidedly of a different doing, at least on the rumor mill.
Something with Samsung
This past January, an interesting story began circulating. Originating from Reuters, it alleged that Samsung was in talks to purchase BlackBerry for $7.5 billion. The report said that top executives from both companies had met to discuss the deal, and cited both insiders and confidential documents as sources. The story was widely covered, and at one point BlackBerry’s stock had a major upturn. In the end, however, both companies vehemently denied such negotiations, and the topic was essentially finished. Still though, some of us at Android Authority felt the idea was deserving of further consideration.
What if, however, there was more to these two company’s rumored doings than anyone had initially realized. What if, somewhere along the way between then and now, Samsung and BlackBerry had actually entered into a partnership that would see the production of a long rumored BlackBerry Android phone. A phone BlackBerry itself has said would not be outlandish to consider. And what if this phone, called the Venice, was going to be announced in the near future on AT&T?
Truth-be-told, it’s actually not such an outlandish idea to believe that Samsung might play a part in BlackBerry’s first Android phone. As you will read, there are several reasons in fact.
As many commentators around the internet have pointed out, the now-infamous press render of BlackBerry’s alleged Venice shares more than striking similarity to the Galaxy S6 Edge. Take a look for yourself:
And now compare it to the Galaxy S6 Edge:
Logically speaking, there are a number of reasons why a partnership between Samsung and BlackBerry would make a lot of sense:
1. Samsung’s fortunes are fading
While sales of the Galaxy S6 have been fantastic, they have fallen below the lofty goals that analysts had previously speculated. Likewise, competition in China is getting fiercer by the day, with new devices being prepped from companies like Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, and ZTE that are becoming more and more desirable. Having a long-term contract with an established company like BlackBerry would be a great source of security in terms of finances, especially in the cut-throat component market where OEMs are constantly shopping between suppliers to get the best guarantee and cost-performance. While BlackBerry certainly isn’t selling tens of millions of devices now, it potentially could should a refocus on Android pay off.
2. BlackBerry needs to cut costs
While the company has more-or-less staved off the total tail-spin it was facing before current CEO John S. Chen took control, it is definitely not in a position of power by any means. If Samsung were to offer it a lower manufacturing cost structure than its current partners, this savings would be most-certainly welcomed. Heck, Samsung could even be used to build most of the device itself, something that becomes more plausible if you factor in the display issue. If Samsung is manufacturing the display, why not give the entire contract to it, especially given that BlackBerry’s current manufacturing contract with Foxconn might not be the most desirable one there is.
3. Samsung is eager to sell more AMOLED
The Korean OEM has never been one to shy away from the benefits of SAMOLED displays, be it a function of power savings, color saturation, thinness, or even the ability to curve them. It commands near-total control over the OLED display market right now, yet the number of customers lined up to make use of the panels are quite limited at best. Whereas HTC once embraced AMOLED, it has since preached the power of S-LCD3. Motorola has made use of Samsung’s technology in several of its products, but then again none of them are mass market hits. By including a SAMOLED display in a BlackBerry however, especially a curved one, Samsung is thereby making use of its latest (and thereby most costly) technology.
4. BlackBerry needs to turn heads (shoulders, knees, and even toes)
BlackBerry needs to make a truly impressive product if it wants to turn the tides with an Android device. Don’t get me wrong here, there are more than a fair share of BB fans around the world, and there is no reason to assume they wouldn’t follow the company into Android territory. The problem is, however, that Android territory is already a very crowded marketplace, and once a customer makes the decision to use Android, the need to stick with BlackBerry becomes questionable, especially given that the OEM’s BBM platform has been available to Android users for some time.
At the same time, if BlackBerry wants to attract more customers, which it clearly does want hence the embracing of Android, it needs to make a product that stands out from the pack. When even the Chinese, who have long been characterized as “copy cats” are making creative, innovative products that stand out, what can BlackBerry do? Including the S6’s edge display is by far the best way to make the Venice stand tall and proud, and you can be sure everyone will take notice of such a bold move from a company most have put out to pasture.
5. The Enterprise market is BlackBerry’s specialty
Security has always been a big issue in the business world, and one of the main reasons BlackBerry was so cherished was the enterprise-focused security suite build into the platform. One such example is the BES12 enterprise mobility management software, which features a range of tools and security options to help businesses keep on top of employee hardware. Samsung developed its KNOX platform in an effort to make in-roads, and indeed it paid off with Google adopting it and the U.S. Government allowing it.
Late last year, the two companies joined forces to promote their services. Samsung would stand to benefit from any such partnership as far as security goes, something that couldn’t come at a better time amid the current crisis of vulnerability the Korean conglomerate now faces. Given that Samsung has already shown an eagerness to pre-load Microsoft apps onto its devices, it wouldn’t be a stretch to find it also seeking to bundle BlackBerry security elements as well. BlackBerry could get a larger market for its services, and Samsung in turn, would get a fantastic package to impress potential enterprise-level clients.
Margin of Error
Given that LG also has shown a display prototype that has curved sides on either end, it’s technically possible that LG could be the supplier of this alleged product’s panel. Given that no product as of yet makes use of LG’s technology, it would be of great financial benefit for the Korean OEM to find a taker and maker as soon as possible so as to cash-in on its hard work.
There is also a possibility that the Venice won’t have any curved display at all, but rather curved glass that gives the illusion. Sharp made use of this kind of trick when it announced the Aquos Crystal last year, and more recently Oppo did as well. Making the display looked curved might be a bit more of a stretch in ingenuity, but depending on the way light was refracted, anything is possible.
V for Venice
BlackBerry fan-site N4BB has listed the following specs for the Venice, along with a release date of around November:
- 5.4-inch Quad-HD display
- 18 MP rear-camera
- 5 MP front-camera
- 1.8 GHz Hexa-core (Snapdragon 808 chipset) 64-bit
- 3 GB RAM
That the BlackBerry Venice itself exists seems to be a non-issue, for the company showed it off during this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, albeit it as a “Slider” and, naturally, running BlackBerry’s OS. Still the presence of a curved display could be seen even then, and a lot can change in a few months to say the least. Back in March, rumors of Nokia getting cozy with Android were still limited to a single tablet, yet now there is talk of much more.
That BlackBerry would want to finally accept the reality of its situation and spring for Android would be the best possible move for it. The emergence of a vested, established player in the mobile industry into Google’s market would be a major boon to consumers looking for a secure platform, and it would also help to reinvigorate a company that has much to offer, if only were it to find a market to sell to.
There is also a potential benefit for Samsung that hasn’t been discussed, namely a possibility to make use of a certain, mysterious patent it filed earlier this year. The design looks oddly reminiscent of the Venice, and it’s possible the pop-out-part could be shifted to the bottom, internals rearranged, and a Samsung Slider (or BlackBerry Galaxy) produced.
While this piece should in no way be taken as anything more than pure speculation, hopefully we have made a reasonable case as to just why Samsung (or LG) might be interested in assisting with a BlackBerry product (be it Android, or otherwise). The question then comes down to just how many Android fans would be willing to purchase a BlackBerry, and likewise, how many BlackBerry customers would be willing to jump ship along with their sailor and swim to a more storied shore. Any thoughts?