BlackBerry’s knight in shining armour — the Android-powered Priv smartphone — may not end up yanking the company out of the endless rough patch period, even after the phone has launched in India. Simply because of massive Rs 62,990 price tag. The phone has been available in the US for $699 (approximately Rs 48,000).
Basically, the company on Thursday, launched a three-month-old phone for Rs. 13,000 more than what it retails for in other parts of the world due to added taxes. The BlackBerry Priv will be available on Amazon and other retail outlets from January 30. “There will be no price cuts in the near future,” said U Narendra Nayak, managing director of BlackBerry India, adding that the phone’s price was justified because it packed in the best of Android and BlackBerry.
Well, if that is what the company believes, then probably it was too busy designing the Priv rather than paying attention to the trends of the fastest growing smartphone market in the world. “Over 75 percent of the smartphone market in India is captured by brands who are releasing phones at the price band of $150 (Rs. 10,000) and hence it makes no sense for a brand like BlackBerry, which is wishing to make a comeback by release a phone with such a huge price tag,” Tarun Pathak, senior analyst, devices and ecosystem at Counterpoint, a technology market research firm, said.
Pathak also said that there are negligible fans of BlackBerry left in the country, as most had shifted to brands such as Apple and Samsung at the brink of its downfall. “The pricing is too steep even for loyal customers of BlackBerry and thus, it is not going to generate any volume for the company,” Pathak said the company was targeting customers only in the 5 percent of the market. Ironically, Apple’s iPhone lineup was one of the reason for BlackBerry sales declining in the US. Also, the Cupertino-based technology major recently slashed the price of its latest iPhones which is going gobble down the space of their phones to an even tinnier, 5 percent market of premium devices.
Vishal Tripathi, research director at Gartner also said that the placing of BlackBerry’s brand and the steep pricing might not be a good mix in a market like India which is dominated by budget and mid-range smartphones for Android ecosystem. “Although the phone might be good, BlackBerry has to deal with established brands like Samsung in the premium category which might not be easy for the company right now,” he said.
Coming to phones priced at $150, brands like Xiaomi, Lenovo, Huawei’s Honor, Lava, Yu, Intex and Micromax are fighting among themselves for a bigger pie of that budget 75 percent market.
However, BlackBerry has justified its strategy and price again and again. And to give the devil his due, here is what Nayak said when asked about the steep pricing of the Priv: “We are looking at power users and for a brand like us it made more sense to come with a premium device rather than a budget device where we could have run the risk of being compared to other brands.”
He further justified the price showing off the productivity and security features of the device.