Blackberry Mobile released its latest smart phone to the Middle East, starting with the UAE on Thursday, on bets its privacy and security features will lure professional millennials and loyal users.
The KEY2, manufactured by the Chinese handset maker TCL, will also be sold in Saudi Arabia later this month, Blackberry said in an emailed statement on Thursday.
“We’ve created a distinct smartphone that captures all the traits that have made BlackBerry smartphones iconic, while introducing new innovations and experiences that not only make this one of the best devices for security and privacy, but also the most advanced BlackBerry smartphone ever,” said Alain Lejeune, senior vice President at TCL Communication and president of BlackBerry Mobile.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia together account for 5 per cent of Blackberry Mobile’s sales. The company faces a challenge in growing its market share, which accounted for less than 0.1 per cent of smartphone sales globally in 2017, according to industry analysts IDC, amid stiff competition from market leaders Apple and Samsung.
The KEY2, which retails for upto Dh2,699 in the UAE and 2,699 Saudi riyals (Dh2,643) in the kingdom excluding value-added tax, comes equipped with a dual sim in the Middle East.
The Android handset is the third smartphone that TLC has launched in partnership with Blackberry, which decided in 2016 to stop making the devices itself and focus instead on developing security software.
The KEY2’s unveiling comes amid tensions between Washington and Beijing over Chinese telecommunications equipment sales in the US.
The new phone, first revealed in New York last month, features the familiar design complete with a physical keyboard designed to please loyal users, while its high-end security features are expected to appeal to younger customers worried about privacy.
It runs Android 8.1 Oreo and is the first BlackBerry phone to feature a dual-rear camera, which is now considered standard on even mid-range phones.
The smartphone carries DTEK, an app that helps users manage how their data is being used by other apps, amid growing online privacy and security concerns. A second app, Locker, creates private folders for documents and photos so users can prevent them from being uploaded to the cloud.
The Middle East region is considered crucial to Blackberry Mobile's success and the company has plans to strengthen its presence in UAE and Saudi Arabia, a TLC communication executive told The National last month.
Mike Al Mefleh, BlackBerry Mobile regional director for the Middle East and Turkey, said about 50 per cent of users in the region had come from other phones.
The improved Locker app, used to store sensitive information, would prove especially popular, he said.