The Priv seemed like BlackBerry’s last effort to fight back into a market that left the company for dead, but at first glance, things looked pretty positive. Sales weren’t knocking Samsung and Apple out, but the Priv seemed to hold its own.
According to AT&T, though, that may not be entirely true.
An AT&T executive has discussed some of the pitfalls that the Priv has faced, and it looks like the security-focused device has had a much harder time than BlackBerry let on. Considering this news comes from AT&T, the carrier that’s had a pretty good relationship with BlackBerry over the years, it’s not a good sign.
After launch, BlackBerry’s sales figures said the company slightly missed their targets for the Priv but they were still on the right track to be successful. They forgot to mention the extremely high rate of returns that AT&T has mentioned, however, which is partly because of the Priv’s shift to Android instead of BlackBerry OS.
Many of the Priv’s buyers were obviously users coming from older BlackBerry phones, and so they expected something a little more similar to their old devices. The Priv doesn’t really have much old-school BlackBerry in it, though, instead offering a very lightly skinned version of Android but with BlackBerry’s security enhancements on top. The problem here is that most users that actually wanted Android probably defected years ago when BlackBerry’s offerings dried up while Android OEMs and Apple offered incredibly compelling alternatives.
That’s a disastrous recipe for customer returns, and that’s exactly what happened.
The other problem with the device is less with the Priv itself and more about its price point. The phone launched at $699, which is actually a little higher than Apple’s flagship $649 prices and close to Samsung’s devices. You can argue that the Priv offered more bang for the buck, but at $700 it’s competing in a segment of the market that’s seeing slowed growth and that’s already completely dominated by two major players.
BlackBerry has only recently dropped the price down to $649, which is still too pricey to gain much traction. Sure, there have been a few sales, but it’s obviously not enough to swing things in their favor.
This throws some doom and gloom on the Priv, but BlackBerry still has plans for a couple more Android devices this year to stay relevant. Hopefully these newer devices learn from the mistakes of the Priv and can help turn some profit for the company, even if they’ll have to launch at a more wallet-friendly price point to make that happen.