BlackBerry’s latest smartphone proves that the company is completely clueless when it comes to pricing
BlackBerry, who recently issued a press release stating that they were exploring their strategic alternatives, is a company that has made mistake after mistake in recent years and the company’s latest mistake is about to hit the market in the form of a brand new BlackBerry OS 7 smartphone, the BlackBerry 9720.
For the record, I don’t have a problem with BlackBerry making another OS 7 device. I actually thought it was a good idea when it was first announced. There are still a lot of customers that like the older BlackBerry OS better than BB10 and would rather stick with what they’re used to. In fact, the older BlackBerry smartphones – devices that are over two years old at this point – out shipped BlackBerry 10 smartphones by a healthy margin last quarter. Shipments of older BlackBerry phones equaled 4.1 million, while only 2.7 million BB10 devices were shipped during the same time period.
So it is easy to see that there is still a market for smartphones running on the older BlackBerry Operating system. Especially in emerging markets, where a lot of consumers would rather not pay the premium price required to own the BlackBerry Q10, Z10 or Q5. The BlackBerry 9720 was supposed to be the new BlackBerry smartphone for those in emerging markets. A device that should have been ultra-affordable so it could compete with all of the low price solutions already in place. And while that idea was good, the pricing is not.
The BlackBerry 9720 is available for pre-order right now from Exepansys at the absurd price of £179.99, or around $280. That makes the 9720 only $19 cheaper than my personal Android smartphone, the Nexus 4 and over twice as expensive as my Nokia Lumia 521, which only cost $129.
What in the world are they thinking?
So what will you get for that $280? Well, other than ripped off, not much. BlackBerry OS 7, while functional and filled with good core features, is a dead platform. Third party app developers aren’t giving it any attention and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon if ever. So the BlackBerry app store for the 9720 will appear mostly like it did around 2 years ago.
The BlackBerry 9720 specs list won’t excite any one either. Up front, there is a 2.8 inch touchscreen with a resolution of just 480 x 360 pixels and a full QWERTY keyboard just below it. Internally, the BlackBerry 9720 is powered by a Single core, 806 MHz, Tavor MG1 processor and 512 MB of RAM. A 5 megapixel camera with LED flash and video recording is on the rear of the phone and there is less than a GB of internal storage for saving a few of your pictures. Thankfully, they did at least include an expandable storage slot, which supports MicroSD and MicroSDHC cards up to 32GB in capacity. The included 1450 mAh battery is expected to be good for 7 hours worth of talk time and 18 days worth of standby time. Connectivity options for the 9720 include 3G: 850/900/1900/2100 MHz / GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g, aGPS and an FM Radio.
I’m not sure what is going on with BlackBerry, but they seem to be utterly clueless when it comes to what consumers want, and what they are willing to pay for it. The BlackBerry 9720 will be competing against much better equipped and more affordable options in basically every market that it is released in. And with BBM making its way to Android sometime in the very near future, I can’t think of any reasons why the masses would pick a $280, BlackBerry 9720 over a $100 Android alternative.
It is almost as if BlackBerry isn’t even trying anymore or they are really confused about their current situation and the competition that they face. BlackBerry’s recent pricing has been terrible. The Z10, Q10 and Q5 were all a bit overpriced in my opinion and the 9720 is extremely overpriced. Perhaps, BlackBerry believes that things are still the way they were back in 2005, back when BlackBerry could get away with having high margins at the expense of their customers. Back then, the BlackBerry brand sold itself and there wasn’t nearly as much competition, there wasn’t even an iPhone back then. So if you wanted a smartphone, you basically had no choice but to get a BlackBerry. And BlackBerry smartphones came at a premium price.
Now, the BlackBerry brand has been severely tarnished, and consumers are swamped with great options everywhere they look. In today’s market, BlackBerry can’t get away with charging the “BlackBerry tax” like they used to. They need to lower their margins and pass some savings on to their potential customers, or the masses simply won’t adopt their products.
I’d love to see BlackBerry turn things around and make a comeback. Consumers need more options, the more players in the smartphone business the better it is for us, but at this point, it seems like BlackBerry is truly a lost cause.