Expect just one or two new phones from Canada-based BlackBerry this year -- and none that runs on the company's own BlackBerry 10 software. Remarks reportedly made by CEO John Chen during an interview at CES 2016 in Las Vegas yesterday, indicate that BlackBerry's new devices for 2016 will be Android-based.
BlackBerry released its first Android device, the Priv (pictured), in November. Initially supported in the U.S. by AT&T, the Priv will soon be expanding to three other North American carriers: Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. Canadian carriers Rogers, Bell and Telus also now support the Priv.
News first reported by CNET that BlackBerry will focus on Android in the coming year is bittersweet for the company's die-hard fans. While the announcement might give them hope for the company's continued existence as a phone maker, it underscores the ever-declining fortunes of the company's flagship operating system, BB10. BlackBerry did not respond to our request for more details about its 2016 plans.
Android Priv a Market Bright Spot
BlackBerry's OS currently holds just 1.05 percent of the mobile/tablet market, which is dominated globally by Google's Android system (57.29 percent), according to December figures from the Internet statistics firm NetMarketShare. Nielsen's metrics for Q3 2015 show BlackBerry's market share in the U.S. is even smaller: just 0.7 percent of the smartphone OS market.
While BlackBerry 10 enjoys a stronger reputation for privacy and security than does Android, BlackBerry put a focus on those features when releasing the Priv late last year. The phone was "designed with security at its core, building on BlackBerry's legacy of security and keeping private its customers' data," the company said.
That focus appears to have paid off for BlackBerry so far, with the Priv seeing both positive reviews and solid demand after its release. Shortly after the phone hit the market, rumors started flying about a second Android phone being developed by the company with the reported code-name "Vienna." Unlike the Priv, which features a slide-out keyboard, the Vienna will reportedly have a physical keyboard on the front.
Support for Self-Driving Cars
BlackBerry made several announcements at CES yesterday. In addition to revealing new carrier support for the Priv in the U.S. -- T-Mobile will start offering service for the device on January 26, and Verizon is set to follow by the end of March -- the company also said that Vodafone in the U.K. now provides service for its Android phone.
QNX, a subsidiary of BlackBerry, also unveiled several new software and technology developments designed for the self-driving market. The QNX Platform for ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) will "enable automotive companies to build a full range of automated driving systems, from informational ADAS modules that provide a 360° surround view of the vehicle, to sensor fusion systems that combine data from multiple sources such as cameras and radar, to high-performance processors that make control decisions in fully autonomous vehicles," according to a statement.
Although BlackBerry doesn't appear to have any new BB10-based devices in the works for the coming year, it hasn't yet abandoned the OS. In its most recent earnings report, issued in December, the company confirmed that it plans to release version 10.3.3 of the OS to support certification from the National Information Assurance Partnership, a U.S. government program for security testing.
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