BlackBerry Priv wins plaudits, but price tag questioned

Fri Nov 6, 2015 10:30am EST
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By Euan Rocha

TORONTO Nov 6 (Reuters) - BlackBerry Ltd launched its first Android-based device on Friday, with the future of the company's hardware business riding on a slick smartphone called Priv that boasts an impressive array of features and a hefty price tag.

The company is betting the Priv's large curved screen, full array of Android apps from the Google Play store and blend of productivity and security features will help it rebuild its share of the smartphone market, which has slid to under one percent.

With hacking and data theft issues becoming a bigger concern these days, BlackBerry expects keen interest in its pre-loaded DTEK feature that alerts users every time any app attempts to access data, or turn on the phone's microphone or camera.

"You will be blown away by some of the apps you use and how much data they actually access of yours," said BlackBerry's head of devices, Ron Louks.

The smartphone's "wow" factor, as Louks dubs it, is actually a throwback - a slide out physical keyboard. While the small number of such Android 'slider' phones that do exist have had little success in the market, most are dated and clunky, say analysts.

BlackBerry is hoping its sleek design and touch-sensitive keys that allows users to swipe, scroll and set up shortcuts will woo former loyalists back to using the Priv.

Initial reviews of the device were mixed, with many lauding its security offerings, long battery life, camera, dual-keyboard design and other features, but panning the Priv's high price tag - $699 without a contract in the United States and C$899 without a contract in Canada.

Still, if the Priv does well, analysts note the device could be a game changer for the Waterloo, Ontario-based company.   Continued...