There are things in tech that I’d love to love. Quirky little things that maybe the rest of the world does not get. I fell in love with the notion of the Samsung Galaxy Note while most media pundits declared it a fail before it even launched. I got lucky and this notion of a TabletPC empowered by a stylus has finally gained traction, but I was in love with it 15 years ago when no one else wanted one. And I’ve never fallen out of love with Blackberry.
Yesterday, AT&T “slashed” the price of the Blackberry Priv from $700 to $640. Yeah. Slashed. Here’s the thing. The term “slashed” needs to be applied with due regard for the absolute value of the price, and not simply the fact that there was a price drop. The price of the Blackberry Priv has been absurd since its inception. And it’s absurd still at $639 off-contract. If you buy the phone direct from Blackberry, they are selling it for $649. Pricing at Best Buy is similar. Shopping Amazon nets you the device at sub-$600 prices. It seems sort of ridiculous to me that the originating company cannot even be bothered to try and engender more sales of its phone by a more reasonable price, while AT&T is certainly losing money on the inventory of Privs it purchased from the Canadian company. I get it. The phone costs a certain amount to make. A certain amount of capital invested in R&D and design has to be recouped. But at some point, you focus on cutting your losses and selling everything you can. That time for the Blackberry Priv has long since come and gone.
Now, on any other earth in the multiverse, the Priv should be a slam-dunk dream phone for many a power-user. Featuring Android’s 5.1.1 (Lollipop) Operating System, with its amazing extensibility, flexibility, and customizability, running on a 5.4″ Quad-HD AMOLED display (2560 X 1440 resolution, 540 ppi) protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4, the Priv features rock-solid hardware. It propels the user through high-productivity use-cases with its patented hardware keyboard design, combined with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, and provisioned with 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM. An 18MP camera rounds out the power encased in a smooth slider body, that, when closed, allows access to a virtual keyboard for short, quick tasks that don’t warrant the full hardware one inside. Blackberry pulled all of this off and still achieved FIPS 140-2 Security Compliance certification for the device, making the Priv suitable for federal government use in the United States.
The Priv launched at around $750 off-contract. Right now, at $640, it sits head-to-head with last year’s iPhone 6s, which only comes with 16GB of storage at that price. The new price does tuck it in under all of AT&T’s other phones at off-contract prices, with the exception of Microsoft’s Lumia 950. But the stretch to other great phones with more notable reputations and greater advertising is only $50. Look, I regard the Priv as an excellent device, one that is probably almost specifically tailored to my specific needs. But I’m not going to pay $640 for a device that launched last fall, and whose future robustness of support is questionable. Not when that price puts me in close striking range of the latest devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 and HTC 10.
As always, when something like this goes down, it’s really hard to understand what the manufacturer and/or carrier are thinking and why the price does not meet the rational conditions of supply and demand for the device and with due regard for the rest of the market. This feels like the Amazon Fire Phone all over again. I’m just not clear why this device is not on a fire-sale right now. Be it known that you can grab this device on eBay for prices around $450 even when using my restrictive search criteria (new or manufacturer refurbished, Buy it Now, US only, seller with a 99% rating or above). So if you really need/want a hardware keyboard and Blackberry’s security, there are lower priced channels to get the Priv through. Also, Blackberry sells its own Passport, a fatter-across-the-middle device which runs BlackberryOS and also has a hardware keyboard, for $499. Also keep in mind that at $639, you’re $10 off from my own most recently purchased device, Google’s Nexus 6P with 128GB of storage at $649.