BlackBerry unveils larger smartphone
TORONTO—BlackBerry unveiled another new smartphone yesterday—this time with a bigger screen and amid minimal fanfare—that appeared designed to attract users who want a mid-point device between a phone and tablet.
But the launch largely was overshadowed by the latest developments from its competitors and reports the company is planning to deliver another round of layoffs to its operations.
Apple, Samsung, and other rivals continue to release new versions of their devices alongside a growing number of players in the tablet market.
The new BlackBerry Z30 comes with a five-inch screen, improved battery life, and faster processor than the models released earlier this year, and is about the same size as its competitor—the Samsung Galaxy S4.
The device is larger than most smartphones but smaller than the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, which the company recently stopped producing after two years.
BlackBerry took a relatively low-key approach to promote the new device yesterday.
The phone was announced at an event in Malaysia that even chief executive officer Thorsten Heins didn’t attend.
MKM Partners analyst Mike Genovese said Malaysia is one of the few markets where BlackBerry has seen growth in recent years, and he expects consumers there will value the larger screen more than in North America or Europe, where alternatives are aplenty.
“It actually points out how limited this launch really is,” Genovese said in an interview from Connecticut.
“I think that we’re going to quickly forget about this.”
The approach is unusual, especially considering that tech firms often drum up as much enthusiasm as possible for their new devices in hopes they’ll eclipse their competitors.
Both Apple and Samsung are known for CEOs championing new devices with conferences and streaming live video for loyal fans.
Unlike BlackBerry’s hyped launch of its Z10 back in January, this time there wasn’t a flashy global event anchored by a CEO speech in New York or an appearance by singer Alicia Keys, who has served as the company’s global creative director.
Even as the BlackBerry announcement was made, it was being overshadowed by early reviews for Apple’s new iPhones, which include fingerprint scanning technology and other new features.
Also stealing attention was a report in the Wall Street Journal which said BlackBerry executives could lay off as much as 40 percent the company’s staff—which would equate to as many as 5,000 people—as it moves forward with a three-stage plan to return the company to profitability.
“Organizational moves will continue to occur to ensure we have the right people in the right roles to drive new opportunities in mobile computing,” spokeswoman Rebecca Freiburger said in response to the layoff reports.
She declined to directly address the reported number of potential layoffs.