BlackBerry (TSX:BB, Nasdaq:BBRY) today announced that its first-ever Android device, PRIV, now runs Android Marshmallow.
Marshmallow is a Android-based mobile operating system that was released in October of last year. The OS looked to improve on Lollipop with a new power management system, new search functionality, and an assist API.
“PRIV by BlackBerry is the most secure Android device in the market and we continue to find ways to further enhance users’ security and privacy by adding new features with the Marshmallow operating system update,” said BlackBerry CEO John Chen.
BlackBerry today touted the superiority of the PRIV’s keyboard, its improved battery life, and superior security features.
Security, always a cornerstone of BlackBerry’s marketing for any of its devices, became a tougher sell in light of recent events that brought the Waterloo-based company some unwanted attention.
Chen last week confirmed that BlackBerry had cooperated with the RCMP to to intercept and decrypt over one million “electronic communications on BlackBerry devices (Pin to Pin messaging)” between 2010 and 2012 in order to bust an Italian crime ring operating in Quebec through an operation dubbed “Clemenza”.
The idea that the Mounties have apparently been able to unlock the encrypted BBM messages of every single non-corporate BlackBerry user for years now has left something of a bad taste in the mouths of the phone maker’s loyal customer base, but Chen defended the company’s actions on a moral basis.
“When it comes to doing the right thing in difficult situations, BlackBerry’s guiding principle has been to do what is right for the citizenry, within legal and ethical boundaries,” he wrote. “We have long been clear in our stance that tech companies as good corporate citizens should comply with reasonable lawful access requests. I have stated before that we are indeed in a dark place when companies put their reputations above the greater good.”
It appears increasingly possible that the Android-based PRIV will be one of the last hardware devices BlackBerry ever makes. Early in April, Chen said the company would stop making devices if the company’s hardware division did not break even by September.
Chen said many hardware employees could be transitioned toward the company’s efforts in the Internet of Things space.
“A lot of the hardware technology and the patents we own are actually needed for the Internet of Things,” he said. “You can’t say: ‘Well you don’t do the phones and you get rid of everybody.’ That doesn’t compute.”
Chen recently conceded that the high-end of the smartphone market is not a place the company can be effective and said it might have been a mistake that its first Android-based device was not cheaper.
“A lot of enterprise customers have said to us, ‘I want to buy your phone but $700 is a little too steep for me. I’m more interested in a $400 device,” he told CBC’s The National.