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BlackBerry Leap — as the undead phone brand returns

You have to admire BlackBerry’s never-say-die pluck. This week the phone maker announced two new models and says to expect a total of four new phones this year.

This is remarkable in two ways:

First, troubled BlackBerry is throwing out daring, original phone designs at a time when other phone makers work off the same flat glass template1.

BlackBerry may as well experiment2 because…

Second, today BlackBerry accounts for just 0.4 per cent of global phone sales. That’s down from 0.6 per cent last year. Seven years ago it was the leading smartphone brand3.


The Leap phone announced this week has a five-inch screen and is all-touch. It’ll sell for about half the price of today’s premium phones. A lower-than-premium screen resolution will help keep the price down. Leap will be the only rectangular big-screen phone running the BlackBerry 10 software.

There’s also a phone with a slide-out keyboard. BlackBerry promises another with both a slide-out keyboard and a Samsung Galaxy S6-style curved screen.

BlackBerry’s sales pitch continues to push the extra level of security that it says other phone makers can’t match.

Security, privacy

Until now that message has mainly been for companies who see business benefits in keeping data from prying eyes. The latest pitch seems to target people worried about who can get at their private data.

If making and selling phones doesn’t work out, the company has a Plan B. There’s a wealth of software that it can sell to business users for whatever phones and tablets they use.

Waiting in the wings is the BlackBerry Experience Suite. This is a set of integrated apps that users and companies can buy either piece-by-piece or in bundles. The software runs on Android and iOS. BlackBerry Experience includes tools for communications, encryption and collaboration.

The BlackBerry Experience Suite will go on sale later this year. There are three main suites:

  • Productivity, mainly about email and document management.
  • Communication, real-time collaboration software.
  • Security, tools to protect that data.

It’s a sensible strategy, pull out the parts of its offering that big companies still like and offer it to them in ways that may or may not include hardware.

Elsewhere there’s a cloud version of BlackBerry’s mobile device management software on the horizon.

  1. It is a good design template and, yes, the Samsung Galaxy S6 looks like an iPhone.  ↩
  2. Who knows? One of these designs could take off.  ↩
  3. Despite everything, BlackBerry made a profit last quarter, so there are reasons for optimism.  ↩