6 Things I Want From BlackBerry’s 2016/17 Android Phones

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BlackBerry. Yep, it’s still going. It’s been a rough couple of years for the once great Canadian phone-maker, but things appear — at least to me — to be moving in the right direction.

BlackBerry has a great CEO in the form of John Chen. It has shown it can still produce great hardware and software (BlackBerry Passport, BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry Blend) and it has also demonstrated that it is willing to change its MO to suit the needs and requirements of the market. Yeah, I’m talking about Android.

This is a company that is willing to change. It is not the company we all know from yesteryear. It is fresher, leaner and more focussed. And this is a good thing. In 2016, BlackBerry is planning a three-pronged assault in the mobile space with Android phones of all shapes, sizes and prices.

A lot of people believe BlackBerry is done. They say the company has lost all relevance in the mobile space, despite its decision to adopt Android last year. I do not agree with this sentiment. I do believe BlackBerry has A LOT of things it needs to do before it gets well and truly back into the game. But BlackBerry has great pedigree, great engineers and a raft of innovative ideas under its belt. And I believe by employing this in 2016 it will once again become a name to be reckoned with. 

Last year’s PRIV was a decent first effort at Android, but I am 100% convinced this year’s flagship Android phone will be A LOT better.

The BlackBerry Classic is DEAD. But don’t worry — the keyboard is here to stay. Or, so says BlackBerry’s Senior Vice President for Global Device Sales, Alex Thurber, who basically confirmed BlackBerry’s new handsets for 2016 would feature a physical QWERTY keyboard.

In essence, Thurber said: “the keyboard is here to stay…” And if you’ve seen the leaked images of what BlackBerry has in store for 2016 this won’t come as a surprise.

The Neon and Argon are all touch affairs, however, the Mercury, which is believed to be the natural successor to the Passport and Priv will indeed feature a physical keyboard.

The next-gen BlackBerry phones will also likely feature Qualcomm’s nearly announced Snapdragon 821 processor:

“Building on the technology leadership introduced with the Snapdragon 820 platform,” said Qualcomm, “the 821 is engineered to deliver faster speed, improved power savings, and greater application performance, ensuring 821 powered devices keep pace with the growing performance demands of users to deliver the unmatched user experiences the Snapdragon 800 tier is known for.

“The Snapdragon 821 is engineered to deliver a 10% performance increase over the 820 with the Qualcomm Kryo quad-core CPU, reaching speeds up to 2.4GHz. Why would you introduce something to replace what many consider the best mobile processor available today? Simple, we’re not. Rather than replace the Snapdragon 820, the 821 is designed to complement and extend the competitive strengths of our Snapdragon 800 lineup.”

With that in mind, here are six things I’d like to see BlackBerry include in its new Android phone, which is expected to drop around October time just after the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and iPhone 7.

Better Battery

The PRIV was decent, but, for me, the battery was just sub-par. It struggled to get me through a full day at work and in today’s space where 1.5 days of usage is common this simply isn’t good enough.

Fortunately, Google has made a fair few advancements with Android’s power consumption and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 chipset is now more efficient that ever. Combined with BlackBerry’s skill with software this is surely a recipe for VASTLY improved battery performance inside its 2016 flagship Android phone.

Passport-Style Design

To me, the BlackBerry Passport was the last great phone BlackBerry made. It was a divisive handset, to be sure, but was unabashedly unique, different and, important, it was VERY BlackBerry. I freaking loved this phone. I used it for almost six months, a very long time for me, and I’d like to see this kind of flair return for 2016’s handsets.

Rumours suggest BlackBerry is prepping one phone (out of three) with a physical keyboard. Will this be a progression on from the Passport’s unique design language? I don’t know. But I bloody well hope so!

Decent Camera Technology

The Samsung Galaxy S7 has one. And so does the LG G5. Apple’s iPhone 7 will apparently really push the boundaries of what’s possible for imaging technology inside phones as well. For this reason — and a bunch more besides — I’d really like to see a BlackBerry phone with a great point-and-shoot camera.

Past releases like the Passport and PRIV have been distinctly average-to-sub-par. 2016’s phone space is a veritable treasure trove of awesome camera phones. BlackBerry needs to realise this is something consumers want and outfit its 2016 Android phones accordingly.

Fingerprint Scanner — On The Back, Of Course

Simple, really. I prefer my fingerprint scanners on the back. You might disagree, as Paul does. But I genuinely do prefer having them on the back. Nevertheless, I would settle for one on the front, just so long as there is one present — I could never go back to unlocking my phone with a PIN or swipe pattern now.

Mass Market Appeal

Another controversial point, this one. I think BlackBerry has spent far too much time in the past year chasing a ghost. That ghost I am talking about is enterprise users, and it is a ghost because, well, they simply don’t exist anymore — bring your own device (BYOD) to work has happened, IT departments are fine with it, and this is not going to change.

BlackBerry needs to do something akin to what OnePlus has done; create a brand appeal amongst technology fans and advocates. Build a great phone and sell it to the world. Forget the stuffy “enterprise” angle, it’s a turn-off for most people and drill down on WHY everybody will want this phone, and not just white guys called Charles who work in the City. Charles uses an iPhone now, BlackBerry. It’s time to move on. 

The “Wild Card” Option — A Foldable Phone!?

I fully admit that this is NOT going to happen, hence the Wild Card caveat. But wouldn’t it be great if BlackBerry rocked up to 2016’s phone space with something completely revolutionary like the world’s first foldable phone or something similar?

BlackBerry does work closely with Samsung, and Samsung is the OEM that has done most work in the field of foldable display technology. The Galaxy X will launch at MWC 2017 and will be the first commercial, fully flexible phone. It will also have a 4K display.

Imagine if BlackBerry beat Samsung to the market with one of these? That would be amazing. It would also explain why the company has been so damn quiet for the entirety of 2016 so far.

What about you? What do you want from BlackBerry’s 2016 Android phone?

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