BlackBerry takes aim at the brutal low-end smartphone market


BlackBerry today posted its third-quarter earnings, and the results were pretty much as horrible as we expected. The once-dominant smartphone manufacturer reported a massive $4.4 billion loss on revenue that has fallen even more dramatically than most onlookers had forecast, and smartphone shipments plunged nearly 50 percent from the previous quarter.

Not all of the news was disastrous — the company burned through $400 million or so during the quarter, which was less than some expected — and BlackBerry said it will partner with Foxconn for the first time to produce low-end, 3G devices running BlackBerry 10, with the first handsets slated to launch in Indonesia in April 2014. Investors warmed to news of that deal, sending shares of BlackBerry up 12 percent by Friday afternoon.

I wrote two months ago that the low end of the smartphone market is booming, not just in emerging markets but also in Western Europe and North America, largely because longtime feature phone owners are finally succumbing to smartphones (and the data plans that accompany them). The competition in that segment has quickly become fierce, with affordable Android and Windows Phone handsets trying to fend off devices running newer operating systems like Firefox OS. BlackBerry may be able to slow its slide by churning out low-end smartphones, but it certainly won’t be easy.

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