Speaking to journalists at a briefing ahead of Mobile World Congress 2018, Francois Mahieu, the chief commercial officer of BlackBerry Mobile, said he hopes to capture 3 percent to 5 percent of the market for premium phones in the next few years.
“It doesn’t have to be a niche business,” he said. “I would not be satisfied with market share in premium (phones) that is sub-1 percent forever.”
However, that’s exactly where it is. Neil Shah, an analyst at Counterpoint Research, estimates that BlackBerry sold just 170,000 phones in the fourth quarter.
With the total market for premium phones (defined as above $400) estimated at 320 million units last year, Shah said BlackBerry Mobile would have to sell at least 10 million units a year, or 2 to 3 million per quarter.
“That looks difficult for now,” he said.
“We are not in a race for volume. We understand it takes time to rebuild an operation, and we understand BlackBerry is not for everyone.
“We will be firmly staying in a premium category, innovating around keyboards, materials and areas to show people we’re here to stay. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
It’s easy to see why Shah thinks it looks difficult. IDC’s Francisco Jeronimo also has a number for shipped BlackBerry devices during 2017.
According to Jeronimo, BlackBerry devices — all of them, not just the KeyOne — achieved a small 850,000 shipments in all of last year.
By comparison HMD Global managed to sell 4.4 million Nokia-branded phones in just the fourth quarter of the year.
Mahieu noted that the business faced skepticism during last year’s launch and that the doubters remain and that BlackBerry Mobile executives acknowledge that.
BlackBerry’s executives made the point that they’ve enjoyed a strong response in China because their phone stands out. In a land of iPhone copycats, a chunkier phone with a physical keyboard and a different user interface is differentiated by default.
BlackBerry phones may get a boost now that Google has endorsed it as part of its Android Enterprise Recommended and Mahieu said this what a lot of corporate customers are looking for.
However, raising public perception may be difficult. As an example, at last years MWC 2017 BlackBerry Mobile launched the KEYone. At this years event, where other manufacturers are launching and unveiling new devices, I was stunned to see BlackBerry Mobile are running a promotion for the KEYone Silver.
The “promotional” price is £459 with a free flipcase and free shipping thrown in and anybody wanting this, here in Europe, can go to here and insert the code MWC2018-EU. The “promotion” lasts until 16th March.