There was a time when BlackBerry dominated the smartphone space. But that time was before Android and iOS launched… and quickly dominated the market thanks to intuitive touch-friendly features and a huge selection of third-party apps.

Despite numerous attempts to release new hardware and software that would make its platform more popular, BlackBerry now has about a 1 percent share of the smartphone market.

So what’s next? The company may be planning to introduce devices that run Android software rather than BlackBerry OS.

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Reuters reports the first Android device from BlackBerry could be the smartphone with the slide-out keyboard the company briefly showed off at an event earlier this year.

The move would be a big one for BlackBerry… but it would be the culmination of a number of smaller changes the company’s made in recent years. BlackBerry Messenger software is now available for Android and iOS. BlackBerry OS 10 can run (some) Android apps as well as native BlackBerry apps, and even comes with the Amazon Appstore for Android pre-loaded. And BlackBerry Enterprise Service 12 is designed to let corporations manage devices using Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Samsung KNOX software platforms as well as Android.

In other words, the company doesn’t just make software for its own devices and operating system anymore.

Does this mean BlackBerry OS 10 is dead? Not necessarily. The company could continue to offer smartphones running the operating system as well as new products running Android… but if it turns out the Android phone is a big hit, don’t be surprised if BlackBerry starts to scale back investment in its own operating system to focus on more profitable areas.

It’s conceivable that BlackBerry could get out of the hardware business altogether one day, focusing on providing security and communications apps and services for Android, iOS, and Windows. But one good way to show that the company is serious about supporting competing platforms would certainly be to release a phone or two running something other than BlackBerry OS.

The Reuters report is based on interviews with “four sources familiar with the matter,” who say that BlackBerry is “considering” the move. So it’s possible a decision hasn’t been made yet, or that the information available to those sources is inaccurate. But the idea of a BlackBerry phone certainly seems plausible… and it could appeal to fans of phones with physical keyboards. It’s been a while since any major phone makers have offered an Android phone with a keyboard.

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29 replies on “Reuters: BlackBerry might offer Android phones (with keyboards)”

  1. Pedant point: Worldwide overall, Nokia’s Symbian dominated the market around 2011 (and that’s not even counting the billion or so S40 devices), when it was overtaken by the rapidly growing android. Iphones didn’t dominate or even lead at any time. The description in the article is more how it was in the US only.

    This news is interesting – android isn’t necessarily a saviour, look at Motorola when they had to be bought, or HTC now. But I guess BB have nothing to lose now…

    1. Do Motorola still exist??? I’ve not seen one of their phones since that RAZR thing about 10 years ago! I can’t say I’ve noticed them in phone shops these days in this country (UK).

  2. Fold open, 2.66 aspect ratio, full keyboard with a small rectangular outer screen for a notification and status bar.

  3. I don’t how a company that produces phones which are sold for their security will benefit from using Android. They already run Android apps, that apparently has made no difference.

    So what’s next? If they put Android on their devices and manage to make it secure enough for the customers they do have like governments, military etc. In the very least they will have to fork Android to lock it down, a skin on top of AOSP won’t do. But how is that going to win over consumers? How long will it be before people start whining about a lack of Google services?

    I just cannot see how Google’s services with it’s data mining snooping and NSA back doors is going to win over enterprise customers and worldwide governments who want security and already ban iOS and Google’s Android for being too insecure.

    1. It’ll be for the regular users who don’t see the point to the security and would rather be able to run the apps they are already used to using… but otherwise may consider the BB hardware for the Keyboard, which is something the Android market has largely ignored these days but there are still people who prefer physical keyboards to typing on touch screens all the time…

      While for BB it means potentially selling more hardware, which of course helps their bottom line and lets them have more leeway on continued BB10 development as they continue to try to make themselves a profitable company again…

      In other words this is little different than previous news of BB allowing some of their services to be available and run on Android and iOS to increase their customer base beyond just what their device users provided…

      By no means is this a cure all for them but for a still struggling company it can be the difference from being a sustainable and even profitable company to one that has to continue downsizing…

      1. If it were for regular users that don’t care about security, I think the already existing Android compatibility would have been enough, I had a BlackBerry and it worked quite well, even intensive games I tried worked along with the Amazon appstore. But it wasn’t enough. You would imply BlackBerry abandon their core business and their current only revenue stream for a soaked Android market. Just because BlackBerry could make Android phones, doesn’t mean people will have a sudden epiphany and go out in droves and buy them. If they were going to make something the average Android user may want it would have to be AOSP derived and sanctioned by the Google cartel for Google Play services, that means BlackBerry could not fork and lock down the OS or include their own competing services, Google do not allow that. Forking is the only option, Google services are then lost. If they go the Android route, at best it will have to be a forked Android and locked down to meet various security specifications by worldwide governments, AOSP is not up to it, Google services cannot be allowed on them. It’s a choice, consumer Android OR a locked down OS and BlackBerry services.

        There will be no room for BB10 or QNX in an Android future, it may limp on a bit as the article suggests, but one will have to die for the other to live.

        Really they should stop being all things to all men and do something businesses find hard to do, by nature they seek to grow, even when there is nowhere to grow into. If they want to survive, leave the consumer market completely. Make secure communications apps for all platforms, make hardened phones for high end security-minded businesses and world governments and departments where Android and iOS are currently banned.

        Be a smaller, specialised company or face extinction.

        1. The already existing Android compatibility is a crippled experience… So I disagree, especially for apps that require special permissions that BB10 won’t give it…

          The apps that you use may not have been effected but when talking about everyone the range of apps people want don’t all work well for a BB10 device…

          But no, I was not suggesting BB abandon their core business… Just pointing out that there’s nothing wrong with expanding and seeing if something different will sell better in a market they never were really strong in before…

          BB’s were primarily a great business phone that excelled at tasks like handling email and messaging… and governments and businesses used them heavily… but the general consumer mainly were attracted for the great thumb keyboard and little else…

          So when the market switched towards smartphones BB quickly got left behind… They’re still a great phone for businesses and government, especially with their top of the line Enterprise solutions and generally better security but they need to rethink their marketing for the general consumer that largely doesn’t care about their traditional strengths…

          Besides, they’re already a smaller company… they made tons of changes the last few years and finally managed to get back into the black with small profits instead of quarter after quarter losses… but a company needs to grow and make larger profits to really succeed and ensure continued long term survival…

          They also already have governments and business contracts but those are not large enough markets for the company to really grow, thus the need to try other new things…

          While adopting Android doesn’t mean BB10 has to die… especially, if they only use them for different markets… For example, just because BB may make or allow other companies to make Android devices with their hardware doesn’t mean those devices will ever be as ready for Enterprise as a BB10 device… and it’s unlikely BB will give up their traditional markets for the general consumer market only…

          1. The Android special permissions think AFAIK is due to differences between the OSes and certain Google functions not being present, especially those that present a security risk. I was a BB user and read ad nauseum the bleating about certain apps not working, the bottom line was they wanted Google Play services. I’m going to repeat myself, but Google Play services are not compatible with a secured OS, which is why they are banned by certain governments and departments, it is a means to mine data and access Google’s services.

            The choices are:
            1. Android + Google Play Services, no competing BlackBerry services.
            2. A forked Android, but Google Play Services are not allowed + BlackBerry services.
            3. QNX + Limited Android compatibility + BlackBerry services.

            I can’t see any other way of doing it other than option 3 for business and option 1 for consumers. I cannot see that as a long term viable option. If there were unsatisfied Android users by the million wanting phones with keyboards, then HTC, Orange and Huawei would have sold them by the bucket load, instead they were seen as passé.

            I think they should just concentrate on the core areas I’ve suggested and downsize to a much, much smaller specialised company. Companies can survive just serving business and government, they do not need to be multi-billion dollar mega corporations. I do not believe they can ever be what they were, nor should they try.

          2. Again, they’ve already downsized as far as they can without closing their doors… This is how they finally got back in the black instead constantly losing big every quarter, so they already did that part!

            While a company needs to grow at some point or they simply fade away and die eventually and no, it’s more than just Google services… Android itself works differently and allows different permissions that a more secure OS won’t allow… especially when the developers won’t work with BB to provide even partial compatibility and get their apps certified to run on BB10, Android based or not…

            Emulation also means apps run slower and take more performance to run well, which a device that only has mid range specs is going to have a harder time providing… along with emulation never quite being 100% compatible either…

            Besides, you’re missing a world of other possibilities… like dual boot options, among many other choices that this could open up for them…

            Really, allowing their hardware to be used for another OS makes little difference to their core market who will still stick to the BB10 devices… just like expanding BBM and their other services to other platforms makes little difference to their core markets… other than to leverage a better presence in the markets they aren’t strong in…

            Sure, keyboards are no longer the rage and will have little impact on the market but part of that is because no one ever made a thumb keyboard as good as BB’s in the first place and you’re ignoring the former fans of the BB that went on to use Android but still miss the keyboard…

            While also missing the potential of getting more people familiar with the hardware that would then be more inclined to give BB10 a chance… Part of the hurdle of getting people to adapt is the lack of familiarity, a dual boot solution would be even better as then they can actually try the OS and see which they like better…

            Right now BB is dealing with the biggest hurdle of most of the market considering them a has been company and most don’t even know they’re no longer on the steady decline… Concentrating on their core only helps them so much but the lack of general consumer market presence is needed for them to have any long term survivability because businesses and government don’t need to rely completely on their solution as much as they used to…

            Sure, iOS and Android have failed in certain part of the Enterprise and government markets but those same markets have also expanded to include iOS and Android in their less critical device ranges and are a heavy part of BYOD market, far more than BB… So their core markets aren’t as big as they used to be…

            So the need for BB to appeal to at least part of the general consumer market remains part of their reality!

            Really, staying too long on just a company’s strength is a good way to go out of business in the long term… It’s part of the reason BB got in trouble in the first place… Ditto for other companies like Nokia, etc. that relied on their old strengths for too long and didn’t change with the times fast enough…

          3. I respect your opinions but I just do not agree with them so we will leave it there, or we will just end up repeating ourselves to no avail. 🙂

  4. They either should have started doing this in 2009-2010 or been hard at work on a true touch based operating system. Either way. A move to Android is long overdue. Hopefully it’s just a skinned Android if it happens and not a fork. They really screwed up on a bunch of phones around that time and just didn’t go where the market was moving.

  5. This is the *only* way I can see BB’s phone segment surviving the next few years. Even then, they’re late to the game and they should have done this years ago. They need to parlay their image as the “Business Phone” people into making a “Business Centric” Android phone. Organize the phone and OS around productivity, include BBM, etc, and maybe they can win back all the people who ditched them years ago in favor of smartphones with actual ecosystems…

    1. I think people are too locked into the iOS/Android see-saw rat race.
      People have become conditioned to Apple or Samsung or another big Android player at a push, anything outside that comfort zone, BlackBerry, Windows or whatever they will not give a second thought to.
      The irony is once people are SHOWN the alternatives in person, they tend to be interested and even want one but networks and stores make money selling the latest Apple or Samsung flagships to granny and aren’t inclined to change.

  6. QNX – the OS that fundamentally is BB10, won’t go disappear, it will live on in the many products it currently lives that aren’t smartphones. I suspect that should BB make this happen BBOS will become much more important as a security-first OS, where Android will be the choice for its consumer oriented products.The app gap is literally an insurmountable problem and is creating barriers to entry by any alternative OS. The only reason Microsoft might make it is because of its installed user base and its move to universal apps, but outside iOS Android and Microsoft one wonders if there will ever be another meaningful platform.

  7. I am not sure if this is a good move for Blackberry. Their current strategy isn’t working but jumping into Android will not be easy. HTC is still struggling to make a dent in the market and they have a reputation for building great Android phones. How does Blackberry compete with Samsung and LG? Preloading BBM isn’t going to do it. I have used the Android version and it is awkward and loaded with ads. Their enterprise software might be attractive to businesses but they may stay away to see if Blackberry will survive before they commit to Blackberry. Any way they go is going to be difficult.

  8. They should have done this a few years ago. Then they could have profited by bringing Android up to specs for the enterprise market — just as Samsung dominates and influences Android devices for consumers, BB could have dominated and influenced Android for enterprise/business. Enterprise for smartphones is still an open market, surprisingly, but who knows if BB still has the clout to do this now.

  9. This makes a lot more sense than just quietly going out of business.

  10. BlackBerry is lost and their current leadership doesn’t seem to have any vision. Same old song and dance.

      1. Nope. BB10 could be so much more than it is. And their hardware is ridiculous–same old mentality, outdated specs at ridiculous prices.

        1. Its all about BB10. Can run on old specs. Grab newer hardware put BB10 grab slower hardware put BB10 you will hardly see the difference between the two. Thats a beauty! Then you have BB messaging system with the hub and it is leap and bounds ahead of the competition. I have seen a few year old “top of the line” phones with yellow screens. What gives? I could go on and on… I own android tablets and I would never ever touch an Android phone.

          1. Stopped reading after the second sentence…. All operating systems perform better with better specs.

            End of argument.

            30 seconds to open an android app that opens in 5 seconds on a nexus 5 is a joke for their new $450 device, but you convince yourself of whatever you like.

          2. And a nexus costs 350 bucks with a flawed cheap OS that cant give you the necessary apps from the get go including a simple email client. Enter a market of malaware and you are in heaven. You convinced yourself to pay approx the same for just specs. Toys for entertainment, thats what Androids are. Tools for work thats what BB are for.

          3. He’s mostly right, exaggerates a bit, but after all these years Android still doesn’t have any serious productivity uses and despite the lack of cutting edge hardware the BB devices are still generally more secure…

            The major flaw with a BB is beyond the things it excels at, like handling emails, messaging, and general use as a phone, that it falls behind in just about everything else you would use a modern smartphone for… and the average user has little to no use for Enterprise features…

            It was the move towards trying to compete with smartphones that started their decline with the now infamous Storm… they basically moved beyond their comfort zone and it showed but made the mistake of leaving out their traditional users with hardly a new traditional model design until fairly recently…

            The move to BB10 was the right one, QNX is a very stable and very scalable OS, but they started late and like WebOS with HP it simply took too long to get the OS properly developed and by then the company was in such bad shape they could hardly afford to develop a proper leading edge device for it to run on anymore… and the Android support was basically emulation and not running anything natively and lacked other support that often crippled features… making it a very weak effort to draw in new users…

            But tales of their eminent demise is greatly exaggerated as well… for the last year or so they have stopped the proverbial bleeding and actually are fairly in the black now… The problem for them now is to become a profitable company again and start growing and that’s where these new changes are going to try to do…

            Btw, this is just one of many changes… They already opened up their services to other platforms and their Enterprise software is one of the best and supports all platforms to make it easy for company IT to handle any and all devices for the company but they still need to start offering something for the general user before they can truly become a profitable and growing company again and that takes steps that go beyond their traditional offerings…

    1. Agree!!! I’ll stick to amazing BB10 but this is a great move for BB.

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