x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

BlackBerry looks to get back in the race with new Porsche designed phone

BlackBerry unveiled the product of its latest collaboration with Porsche in Dubai yesterday as the struggling company hopes to make a mark in the luxury segment of smartphones.

The BlackBerry P9982 has the same specifications as the previous model, but with larger internal storage and 4G compatible connectivity. Charles Crowell for The National
The BlackBerry P9982 has the same specifications as the previous model, but with larger internal storage and 4G compatible connectivity. Charles Crowell for The National

BlackBerry unveiled its latest collaboration with Porsche in Dubai yesterday - a slick handset that costs Dh8,600.

The P9982 handset is the second time the two companies have worked together to design the hardware of a BlackBerry phone. The previous model the P9981 sold more than 130,000 units worldwide and BlackBerry is expecting similar sales this time.

Based on the BlackBerry Z10 model launched earlier this year, the P9982 has the same specifications, but with larger internal storage and 4G compatible connectivity. The phone, encased with stainless steel and Italian leather, will go on sale across Porsche retail stores and some BlackBerry stores worldwide.

“The Middle East has been a high-end market. We know that customers always look for luxurious high-end devices and the two successful brands’ combination will make it more attractive. It is not just about the look and feel, but also the functionality,” said Mike Al Mefleh, the director of product management at BlackBerry Middle East.

The region has become a prime focus for luxury retailers and now phone manufacturers are keen to tap into the high disposable incomes in the GCC in particular.

Vertu, the UK luxury brand formerly owned by Nokia, has seen substantial sales in the region and the Middle East is now its second largest market after Asia-Pacific. It has six retail outlets in the UAE, selling its handcrafted phones, which start at Dh25,4000.

“Strictly speaking this is a Porsche Design phone, not a BlackBerry one, and it competes with the likes of luxury smartphone brand Vertu,” said Adriana Rangel, the research director of systems and infrastructure solutions at the information provider IDC. “That is where it will face perhaps unsurmountable competition as Vertu phones are now running Android and this platform offers the kind of applications ecosystem and support mechanisms that the BlackBerry OS can no longer provide.”

With a 6.9 per cent market share in the Middle East smartphone market as of the third quarter of this year, Ms Tangel said she was confident that the P9982 would enjoy “healthy sales” as customer preference for BlackBerry in the region remains high compared with other parts of the world.

Earlier this month BlackBerry’s chief executive Thorsten Heins stepped down as the company revealed that the US$4.7 billion sale of the company to Fairfax had collapsed. BlackBerry’s stock has fallen 45 per cent this year as the company lost almost $1bn in the previous quarter. Executives are under increasing pressure to retain lost market share in a bid to save the company.

thamid@thenational.ae