Will Leap help BlackBerry bounce back in the UAE?

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Canadian smartphones manufacturer BlackBerry Limited yesterday announced the availability of its latest device, the BlackBerry Leap, in the UAE.

“We are targeting the ‘young communicators’ that are seeking an affordable, all-touch smartphone as well as productivity, security and privacy. It also targets the enterprise segment, which is looking for something affordable yet productive,” Mike Al Mefleh, ‎Senior Director for Product Management and Platform, Software and Services at BlackBerry Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, told Emirates 24|7.

The new mid-segment device will be available for Dh1,099 at most leading retailers in the UAE, including the BlackBerry Store at the Dubai Mall, he said.

The new BlackBerry phone will be available in two colours – shadow grey and white – in the UAE.  The five-inch all-touch smartphone boasts long battery life and virtual keyboard.

“There is a reason we called it the Leap,” said Al Mefleh. “It targets the young communicators who have a mission and an aspiration to get somewhere… they’re leaping in their life… they’re looking for something to be productive to get ahead,” he said.

“The Leap targets the power communicators – it’s the younger generation… they’re aspirational and they are looking for some affordable smartphone that can address their need for productivity and security,” he added.

The Leap is BlackBerry’s first major release this year. It unveiled BlackBerry Passport in September last year, which was pegged as BlackBerry’s ‘passport’ to profitability. The company then launched the Classic in December 2014.

After a gap of two rather long years, BlackBerry finally announced in March this year that it was back in black in the latest quarterly results.

With things beginning to look a little positive on the financial side, can the Leap help BlackBerry bounce back from near oblivion?

Once the dominant player in global smartphones domain, BlackBerry lost its leadership position to Apple and Samsung, who remain the top players today.

“We aim to continue to offer a balance in our portfolio, and we will continue to bring more and more in terms of deliverables,” says Al Mefleh.

The Leap’s UAE launch also coincided with news that, in its quest for efficiency, BlackBerry will be shedding an unspecified number of jobs. We asked Al Mefleh if this region will be impacted.

“I really cannot comment on specifics but yes, the company continues to look at efficiencies and turn things around, and continue to grow in different areas and continue to look to be efficient in different areas,” he said.

“This [job losses] is just a global initiative – it does not specify areas or regions, etc.” he added.

Led by John S. Chen, a Hong Kong-born British-American, BlackBerry is now in Year 2 of its two-year turnaround strategy. “In the past few years, we have a strategy in place; the company is working on turning things around,” said Al Mefleh.

“The latest quarter has been announced with a profit. We continue to make good progress; performance continues to improve, and we continue to provide a balanced portfolio and we continue to offer different software and services in the marketplace,” he said.

At the same time, the Canadian company remains cash-rich too. “We have a good [amount of] cash in the bank – very healthy cash – and we continue to acquire companies to help our future strategy… based on what’s been said by our executive leadership. This is the strategy in place to turn the company around,” he added.

“Our strategy has identified our focus, which are the four pillars: Devices (hardware – smartphones), Enterprise (security across platforms), Messaging (BBM and different services) and Platform (QNX),” he said.

Asked if the focus will be on premium devices (Passport, Classic) or mid-segment (Leap), Al Mefleh said that the company will continue to focus on both. “We will continue to focus on both segments – we have business in both segments. The enterprise is part of our DNA, our strength – that’s where we will continue to grow, do well, introduce different services and security enhancements and across platforms to be utilising and services we can provide. Also consumer segment – Leap targets both,” he said.

BlackBerry Leap features the latest BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system, an edge-to-edge five-inch HD display and claims more than a full day’s battery power (25 hours).

 

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