A Reuters report last week suggested BlackBerry may release an Android phone in the near future:
BlackBerry is considering equipping an upcoming smartphone with Google Inc.'s Android software for the first time, an acknowledgement that its revamped line of devices has failed to win mass appeal, according to four sources familiar with the matter.
After shunning Android for its own BlackBerry 10 OS, the company failed to turn around its shrinking smartphone market share. Can adopting Android at this late stage change this?
Judging by the information in the report, the Android-powered BlackBerry with touchscreen and signature physical keyboard is certainly an interesting proposition that would appease BB hardware fans while providing a decent native app ecosystem.
Ecosystem is a huge consideration when buying a smartphone. iOS, Android and Windows Phone (to a lesser extent currently, but more so going forward with Windows 10) have great all-round ecosystems, each with their own associated benefits. BB10 had little to shout about that was unique to the platform, bar its UI, and ultimately wasn't enough to attract smartphone buyers. At this moment in time, I think it would be wise for BlackBerry to embrace Android.
It's a difficult game to play, being an Android OEM, as your differentiation is mostly down to the quality of your hardware. However, BlackBerry is a strong brand and has a a lot of credit in the bank with consumers — especially lovers of that clicky QWERTY keyboard — so, in my mind, there's no real reason to say it couldn't begin to compete with Samsung, HTC, Sony and other Android OEMs if it can put out some quality hardware with excellent specs, running Android (preferably Google Android, as using AOSP wouldn't be any more beneficial than what the company is doing now). But it's all in the execution, something BlackBerry hasn't excelled in for quite some time.
The statement provided to Reuters doesn't fill me with hope, though, as the BlackBerry spokesperson reaffirms the company's commitment to BB10. For me, BlackBerry would need to go all-in on Android, back it up with its BES12 security features and BlackBerry's apps, and release some exciting new hardware (one phone is not enough). Adopting Android would be an admission that BlackBerry 10 is not what customers want, and it would not please BB10 developers, but it's better than failure for the sake of stubbornness — which the company has chosen thus far.
The time of BlackBerry as a full-stack smartphone manufacturer is over, but I think there's life in the brand yet.