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Android is killing Windows Phone, but won’t put BlackBerry back in black

Microsoft won’t admit it, but Windows Phone is a busted flush – and it’s all Android’s fault. But while Android is great at killing off lesser rivals, it’s not so good at keeping hardware firms alive: just ask BlackBerry, whose jump to Android was almost certainly too little, too late. Have smartphones become a two-horse race?

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Windows Phone sales are disastrous, because everyone wants Android instead. / © Microsoft

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Windows vs Android: bringing a water pistol to a gun fight

What’s deader than Dead Deady McDead of Dead Street, Deadtown? That’s right: Windows Phone. We knew it was ready to gasp its last in January when Lumia quarterly sales dropped 57 percent to just 4.5 million; total Microsoft/Nokia sales to date were 100 million. That sounds like a lot, but in the same period Apple and Android shifted 4.5 billion.

Fast-forward to April, when Microsoft had its annual Build conference for developers. Where was Windows Phone, the OS for the most important platform of all, the smartphone? It wasn’t anywhere. “We’re going to do some cool things with phones, but this year phones are an important part of our family but not the tip of the iceberg,” said Microsoft Windows and Devices chief Terry Myerson. Translation: Windows Phone is dead.

Android killed it. Android had all the phones; Windows had the Lumia and the odd HTC. Android had all the apps; Windows could barely persuade the biggest app developers to make Windows versions, let alone the indies who wanted to eat. And Android had an OS that people actually wanted to buy. Windows didn’t.

So with all its awesomeness, Android’s going to save BlackBerry. Right?

The Priv is the first BlackBerry phone to use Android for its OS. / © derStandard

Android on BlackBerry: too little, far too late

We said it ages ago: the BlackBerry Priv is going to fail. It’s not that it’s a bad device. Far from it. But BlackBerry needs it to do big numbers, and those numbers aren’t happening: in the most recent quarter BlackBerry sold 600,000 Privs, down from 700,000 the previous quarter.

That’s a lot of phones, but when analysts say BlackBerry needs to sell another 3 million this year just to break even it’s clearly fallen far short of expectations. BlackBerry's CEO says his target is 5 million; if BlackBerry doesn't do those numbers and have a profitable handset division by the end of 2016 he's going to get rid of that bit of the business.

BlackBerry is doing its best to keep people interested in the Priv - the Priv is getting a Marshmallow update, with a beta possibly landing as early as this week - but the numbers aren’t going to get much better: the initial new-product excitement has worn off and sales are clearly slowing, not growing. Chances are, if you wanted a Priv you've already got it. Maybe BlackBerry should have embraced Android back when Android was still rubbish.

Early Android, such as Froyo, lacked essential business security features.  / © ANDROIDPIT

Android was a better bet when it was rubbish

That sounds crazy, we know, but bear with us. When BlackBerry ruled the world, it was the phone that businesses bought. And in their early days, neither iPhones nor Android were particularly business-friendly. Had BlackBerry brought its business smarts, its security and its messaging to Android back then, it would have cleaned up and quite possibly kept Apple from denting the enterprise market.

But it didn’t, and Samsung stepped in with Knox. That made Samsung devices much more suitable for businesses, and Google was quick to notice and incorporate some of Knox’s features in Android Lollipop. Things have improved further with Marshmallow, which adds even more business-friendly security features.

That changes everything. Given the choice between an okay Android phone from BlackBerry or a stunning one from Samsung, are you really going to go for the Priv? As we said in our BlackBerry Priv vs Galaxy S6 Edge comparison, the Priv doesn’t just need to be good. It needs to be amazing.

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The Priv is a good Android phone that's up against great Android phones.  / © Carphone Warehouse

We like BlackBerry and wish it nothing but the best. But it isn’t going to hit its self-imposed deadline of having a profitable smartphone business in 2016. It’s not that Android isn’t really good on a BlackBerry. It’s that Android is really good on everybody else’s devices too.

What do you think? Was Android on BlackBerry too little too late, or does the firm just need to stick to its course and lose a bit more money for a little bit longer? Is BlackBerry’s future in enterprise apps rather than hardware? Let us know what you think in the comments.


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  • Gary,

    Android didn't kill Windows Phone. Microsoft shot itself in the foot a long time ago when they opted to ignore smartphones over the development of Windows Vista back in 2007. They ignored a pivotal market and Android pounced.

    Windows Mobile wasn't a true "smartphone" back then. There were no apps, no LTE support, nothing that could even remotely be considered modern today. By the time Android and iOS took over with app domination, Windows Phone was a non-factor, so henceforth Android didn't kill Windows Phone, Microsoft did itself by ignoring a key market. The PC market has always been Microsoft's niche.

    Additionally, your point on saying its dead based on last quarter's numbers is absurd because Microsoft made a business decision to reduce the production of phones to 2 per year. No flagship had been around for 20 months before the release of the 950 earlier this year. Of course sales are going to be dysmal when you only release 3 phones in 20 months.

    Mobile carrier shelf space is dominated by so many variations of Android from cheap low end, to flagship that Windows Phone gets very little attention. The Lumia 640 is a great phone for a first time smartphone user or an elderly, but it gets no attention.

    For the majority if you ask an average Android user why they don't like Windows Phone (other than UI), they will say its because it lacks apps. And yes, this is so very true. It is very difficult for Microsoft to match Android on feature and app parity, given Android's open source nature. But Android has one potentially hurtful flaw, i.e its owned by the monopoly, Google. That makes Android no different than Microsoft's Windows Phone based on quality control. The two big wigs still control what apps gets published to the store, and how the phone looks. Android isn't as open as you may think. Google controls a lot of it.

    The future of Windows Phone is business end, ala Continuum and App Virtualization (Citrix, Remote Desktop, Azure, etc).
    I think that Microsoft and the general public would agree that its impossible to get support from every single Android developer and force their hand to build a WP app. Snapchat is a prime example of one developer who is stubborn enough to reject Windows Phone.
    Trust me its not like the WP commmunity hasn't cried out to snapchat to make them develop an app, they just blantantly refuse to build one, citing "security" as a poor reason of why they don't have one. FUCK you Snapchat, we all know damn well why you don't build a WP app. Rudy Huyn (the most famous WP developer) offered you his source code for his superior snapchat app, and you shut him down.

    Based on what I said above, since Microsoft can't win on app parity (due to the fact its impossible), they need to hit a home run with a niche market, and Continuum is the answer. This is why I think Windows Phone makes a great cheap business phone. It will become the
    Blackberry of 2008. The ability to run Win32 apps on your phone through app virtualization ala Remote Desktop App. Having your data secured with you anywhere you go, your files with you at all time, is compelling for businesses.

    Consumer market is dead I agree, and I could give two shits less about snapchat to be honest. But I think to survive they need to have the basics down. Facebook, Twitter, good web browsing with extension support, rich mail client, full office suite. What more do you need in a "business" phone?

  • Warren JB 6 months ago Link to comment

    My Lumia 1020* is my first smartphone (late starter) and I still love the stupid-huge camera on it; but even with my finger so far off the smartphone pulse, at this point I can't disagree that the best thing for WP might be to take it out behind the woodshed and put it out of it's misery.

    * It was discontinued so fast, me eardrums almost burst from the sonic boom! I didn't even get the chance to pick up some of the accessories for it, and that also puts me off upgrading to newer Lumias, with few must-have features and the high probability of going the same way.

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