BlackBerry's Chen acknowledges need for more apps as rumored Android phone appears in new leaked photos

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) CEO John Chen admitted that his company's smartphones still do not give customers access to enough apps to be competitive with Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhones or those running Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android platform. And while Chen stopped short of confirming that the company is producing a phone running on Android, new photos of the rumored gadget popped up online.  


"It is a little more complex, which is why it is not done," Chen said Friday in an interview with Re/code. Chen did not indicate if BlackBerry would make an Android phone but according to Re/code, he hinted that it would involve more than just putting stock Android software into the company's hardware, presumably meaning there would be additional security enhancements.

New photos of the rumored Android phone, said to be codenamed Venice, showed up online and appear to match the renders that leaked out earlier this month. The photos showed a phone with its keyboard slid out and supporting what looks like a relatively stock version of Android. Rumors suggest the phone is powered by a Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon 808 processor, sports a 5.4-inch QHD LCD screen and comes with 3 GB of RAM. In March BlackBerry executives promised the company would release a new phone later this year with a dual-curved screen and slideout keyboard.

BlackBerry will reportedly release the phone in November with the support of all four Tier 1 carriers, according to posts from known and pretty reliable leaker of mobile device details Evan Blass, also known as @evleaks.

Chen said his company's recent handsets, including the Classic with a Qwerty keyboard and the square-shaped Passport, have not fared as well as he had hoped, in part due to a lack of apps. "By any definition it is not a runaway success," he said. In its last fiscal quarter, which ended May 30, the company's hardware revenue fell to about $263 million, down from $379 million in the year-ago period and BlackBerry recognized revenue on only 1.1 million devices.

One of the big problems, he noted, is that there just aren't enough apps for the devices, even with the inclusion of Amazon's Android app store.

BlackBerry struck a deal in June 2014 with Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) to get access to apps in the company's Appstore, but Chen said that is not enough. "It's not competitive to Google Play or the iTunes store," he said. "We're working hard at that."

BlackBerry has also been expanding beyond making its own phones, using its servers to manage other types of handsets, including a deal to work closely with Samsung to help secure that company's phones for businesses.

BlackBerry said in March it would be offering more of its core software and services to larger smartphone platforms, including Android, iOS and Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows. BlackBerry's services let users do things like manage personal and work email and edit documents across devices securely; let users find their highest-priority messages faster; and monitor all personal and work messages in one place. The services also let users protect personal and work data from malware and theft via BlackBerry's secure encryption and privacy controls; secure emails, messages and phone calls; and have separate containers for work and personal messages.

"It drives my handset business crazy," Chen said, but added that BlackBerry needs to partner with others. "If you really want to play in the bigger market, you are going to have to be cross-platform," he added. "You are going to have to have partners; otherwise you go away."

Chen said that he wants to stay in the handset business but reiterated that the unit needs to become profitable. "If I can't make money on the phone, I will be out of that telephone handset business," he said. "There is a timeline; I won't tell you when."

For more:
- see this Re/code article 
- see this Engadget article 
- see this The Verge article 

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