BlackBerry Adds Amazon Appstore and Reveals ‘Passport’ Phone

Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Yesterday, BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) announced its solution to the dearth of apps in the BlackBerry App World: Amazon‘s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Android Appstore will bring thousands of apps to BlackBerry 10 phones this fall. And today, BlackBerry CEO John Chen revealed the Passport, the company’s next smartphone.

GigaOM reports that Chen revealed the Passport during the company’s quarterly earnings call, which showed that 1.6 million handsets were sold, versus 1.3 million in the previous quarter. The company’s adjusted gross margins also rose from 43 percent to 48 percent. The Passport is reportedly the previously-leaked “Windermere” device, aptly named the Passport given its width. The bottom of the device features a keyboard, which has remained a draw for BlackBerry devotees. The phone will officially launch at a London event in September.

BlackBerry’s partnership with Amazon addresses one of consumers’ major objections to the BlackBerry platform — that there aren’t enough apps available for the company’s phones. The partnership gives BlackBerry a fast solution to the problem, and also allows the company to focus its development team on software, security features, and productivity tools that appeal to the corporate and federal market the company focuses on as it tries to regain market share.

“You want apps? We’ve got apps!” states a post on BlackBerry’s blog, announcing that the licensing agreement will bring about 200,000 apps to its platform – The Wall Street Journal puts the number at 240,000 — with the launch of the BlackBerry 10.3 operating system later this year.

Some of those will be chart-topping apps that have proved extremely popular on other manufacturers’ devices, like Groupon, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Pinterest, King‘s (NYSE:KING) Candy Crush, and Minecraft. For consumers who spend a lot of time with one or more of those apps, and many other popular apps like them, buying a BlackBerry has not been a good option. The Amazon Appstore will come preloaded on devices shipped with the new operating system. BlackBerry World will also still be accessible, but the music and video sections of the store will be closed on July 21. Users will be able to access music and video through apps both from the Amazon Appstore and BlackBerry World.

BlackBerry currently offers roughly 130,000 apps through its BlackBerry World app store, and will see offerings more than double when the Amazon Appstore is also available. However, even the new combined total of 370,000 pales in comparison to the number of apps offered by Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store and Google‘s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Google Play, which count over a million each. Microsoft‘s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows phone, which, like BlackBerry, has drawn similar criticism over app availability, reached 250,000 apps in April according to BGR, and come BlackBerry 10.3, will be the platform with the fewest apps to offer.

As reported by the New York Times, BlackBerry announced last year that BlackBerry 10 devices would be able to run Android apps. But running an Android app on a BlackBerry device required a complex series of steps, and developers were encouraged to submit their Android apps to BlackBerry’s BlackBerry World for distribution. In January, the 10.2.1 upgrade enabled BlackBerry phones to run Android apps directly, and download them through Amazon’s Appstore. The new partnership will see the Amazon Appstore directly available on BlackBerry devices with the operating system upgrade.

The relationship is a logical step for BlackBerry, which has focused its development program on software for enterprise customers instead of general consumers. Getting Amazon to take care of the app marketplace that most people will look to for the apps that they use everyday allows BlackBerry to keep its focus on the corporate and federal market. Though it’s unlikely that the introduction of the Amazon Appstore will help BlackBerry to reverse the declining popularity of its devices among general consumers, it’s an added plus for those who stick with the company’s devices for their security.

The general consumer who’s already considering forgoing the million-plus apps available for iOS or Android — by looking at Windows Phone, perhaps — might consider a BlackBerry now more than before. Chen’s revealing of the new Passport phone could also generate discussion that makes consumers consider a BlackBerry for their next phone. But both BlackBerry and Microsoft now have Amazon’s Fire Phone as a contender, which means it might be BlackBerry’s best move to concentrate its resources on the enterprise market.

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