What could be BlackBerry’s final attempt at the smartphone market will reportedly meld the popularity of Android with the old-world charm of push buttons.
For months, the in-progress ‘BlackBerry Venice’ was rumoured to be a hybridised smartphone with a hidden qwerty keypad that slid out from the bottom of the handset.
On Saturday, Vietnamese website Tinhte.vn published what it claimed were leaked photos of an authentic prototype, which supported these rumours.
A phone comparison expert told The New Daily there was still a market for buttons.
“I think there are a lot of people who still fondly reminisce about having their old BlackBerry phones and how great the keyboards were to use and how easy they found it to type on them,” WhistleOut editor Joseph Hanlon said.
In years past, BlackBerry was the favoured device of business people and politicians – those who sent large amounts of emails and needed an ergonomic keypad. But the smartphone maker fell from favour, in part because of a failure to provide modern software and popular apps.
Perhaps to fix this problem, the Venice is rumoured to be powered by the Android operating system, now the world’s most popular, though the company has not confirmed this.
“I’m sure there are still stacks of people out there who would love to be using BlackBerry keyboards, but they just wish the software was more up-to-date,” Mr Hanlon said.
The impediments to a successful comeback for BlackBerry are huge. The company’s CEO John Chen recently pledged to leave the smartphone market if his handsets failed to be profitable.
“If I can’t make money on the phone, I will be out of that telephone handset business,” Mr Chen said during an interview. “There is a timeline; I won’t tell you when.”
Like Nokia, BlackBerry is struggling to achieve a fraction of its 2007 glory. At that time it made the most popular phone and Apple’s first iPhone was the underdog rival.
Now, Apple and Samsung have approximately 90 per cent of the market between them, with companies like HTC and Sony bringing up the rear.
If a giant company like Microsoft could not sell Nokia phones, it would seem BlackBerry has little chance of success.
“This phone looks like the sort of thing that BlackBerry fans would have wanted several years ago. Whether or not they actually rush out to shops now and buy them, I don’t know, I really don’t think so,” Mr Hanlon said.
“If you were a betting man, you would probably think this isn’t going to work and that if he [the CEO] is true to his word he may well just stick to their business software, which they still manage to do quite a good business out of.”
But the company’s last gasp might give fat-fingered button fans one last chance at thumb comfort. That is, if the phone does make it to Australia. There’s no word on that yet.