AT&T confirms the Blackberry Priv has disappointed everyone

by Matt Klassen on June 9, 2016

attblackWe all knew that a lot hinged on the success of Blackberry’s first Android smartphone, the Priv, unveiled last year amidst moderate hype, and with that in mind, it was nice to see several carriers commit to supporting the latest flagship device from the struggling Waterloo Company. In fact, even when a phone is doing poorly you still often see carriers continue to champion the device, trying to rouse consumer interest if for no other reason than the need to move the phone inventory off its shelves.

So while you’d expect consumers to voice their frustrations, and smartphone manufacturers to meekly admit that things haven’t gone well, when a carrier voices concerns about a product they’re trying to sell, well that’s just not good at all, which means that when one anonymous high-level AT&T executive, a company that has long been a stalwart ally of the Waterloo firm, didn’t pull any punches in his grim assessment of Blackberry’s latest high-end device, you know things are bad, really bad.

“The BlackBerry Priv is really struggling,” the high-level executive, who asked not to be named, said last week. “We’ve seen more returns than we would like.”

Of course we already knew that things were bad for Blackberry, company CEO John Chen already admitted as much, but there’s something about the acknowledgement of that fact from your closest industry partner that seem to make things, well, significantly worse.

The problem for the Blackberry Priv was twofold: First, its premium cost ($699 unlocked, compared to the iPhone 6S, which retails for $650) meant that many avoided the device because they doubted it was better than the likes of Apple or Samsung. Second, the switch to an Android operating system left many long-time Blackberry supporters frustrated and disillusioned, resulting in a surprisingly high product return rate.

“There isn’t much volume growth in the premium segment, where Apple and Samsung dominate,” the AT&T executive said.

Now those two failures on the part of the Priv now mean more problems for Blackberry itself, as we had already seen carriers avoid selling Blackberry products before, but now even the company’s closest allies will likely be thinking twice about supporting the once great Canadian firm.

Further, as I mentioned, the switch from Blackberry’s own proprietary OS to Google’s Android OS was a gamble that did not pay off, as it failed to attract new customers to the Blackberry brand, and unfortunately succeeded widely at driving away the company’s loyal fan base.

So although Blackberry’s Chen has already hinted at the possibility of two new phone releases this year alone (aimed at different market price points), I have to wonder if anyone will take a chance on actually selling them, as it’s clear carriers are getting tired of betting on a horse that just can’t win.

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