x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

BlackBerry pins hopes on Porsche being first in UAE

BlackBerry targets UAE market with Porsche-designed phone with designer PIN numbers, hoping to cash in on a demand for customisation that saw a car number plate sell for $14 million

Research in Motion is hoping to cash in on the demand for customisation among UAE consumers. Ali Haider / EPA
Research in Motion is hoping to cash in on the demand for customisation among UAE consumers. Ali Haider / EPA

BlackBerry has chosen the UAE as the launch market for a US$2,000 (Dh7,346) Porsche-designed smartphone, which comes with vanity PIN numbers.

The handset-maker is hoping to cash in on the demand for customisation among UAE consumers in a market where in 2008 a car number plate with a single digit sold for $14 million.

Some retailers in the Gulf charge a premium on BlackBerry handsets with distinctive PIN numbers, which are used to communicate via the Messenger tool.

The mobile brand says its Porsche Design-branded P'9981 handset will be the first BlackBerry to carry vanity PIN numbers. The codes start with 2AA, followed by five numbers.

Consumers will not be able to choose their own five numbers, but BlackBerry is hoping the 2AA prefix will provide sufficient cachet for cash-rich residents.

"It gives a uniqueness," said Sandeep Saighal, the managing director for Research In Motion (RIM) in the Middle East. "You've seen that in what happens with car registrations. The same thing happens with the PIN numbers here."

RIM, based in Canada, is the developer and maker of the BlackBerry.

"We should be rolling out within two months," he said of the Porsche phone. "It starts in the UAE, and then goes on to some of the countries in the Middle East, and then rolls out to Europe and the US."

At an auction in 2008, the UAE car registration plate carrying the single digit 1was sold for a record $14 million.

While phones with a 2AA prefix may not have the same impact, BlackBerry predicts demand for special pin numbers.

"We have seen a lot of retail shops offering certain PINs at premiums," said Mr Saighal.

The new phone is made from forged stainless steel and leather, has a touchscreen, and comes with a matching cradle and headset. Executives say it will be priced at around $2000.

"[What] BlackBerry did for the first time for this very special product is we provided a unique PIN for that product," said Thorsten Heins, the chief operating officer for product and sales at RIM.

"This is specifically important to Dubai, where the high degree of customisation … is really important to the end user," added Mr Heins.

RIM claimed a 140 per cent increase in BlackBerry subscribers in the Middle East in the year up to August.

However, the operator has seen big declines in its share in other markets.

Some analysts said this could be exacerbated by a recent failure in its service, which brought down email and messaging services for four days, affecting millions of users.

bflanagan@thenational.ae