Blackberry, which is still trying to regain a foothold in the enterprise smartphone market it once dominated, will price its new Passport smartphone at $599 when it goes on sale Sept. 24, according to the company's CEO John Chen.
Chen said the new square-screen phone will be sold in the United States without subsidies at that $599 price, which he said is lower than the price of unsubsidized phones sold by rivals, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. In an interview with the newspaper, Chen said that the phone will be priced differently in some other countries. If the phone were sold without consideration for competing phones from rivals, it would cost about $700 at retail, he told The Journal.
"But I figure that to try to get the market interested, we're going to start a little lower than that," he said.
The new iPhones from Apple start at $649 without a contract for the iPhone 6, or $749 without a contract for the iPhone 6 Plus. Samsung's latest Galaxy S5 smartphone is available without a contract for about $650.
BlackBerry's new Passport smartphone is notable for its shape, which is more square than rectangular, according to an eWEEK report in July. In fact, the new device is actually shaped like a passport. The Passport's display is a full HD and 4.5 inches square, offering the same viewing space as a 5-inch smartphone with what BlackBerry calls an "even better viewing experience."
The key reason is that while the average rectangular smartphone shows 40 characters across on its screen, the Passport will show 60 characters.
Chen had previously announced that the Passport will be followed by the Classic—another also thoroughly discussed addition to the BlackBerry portfolio—this coming November.
BlackBerry's fall from dominating the enterprise smartphone market has been swift and stunning. BlackBerry spent much of 2012 and 2013 trying to shake off the image that it was finished, especially compared to its presence five years earlier when its devices were the "enterprise gold standard" for mobile business communications.
In early 2006, half of all smartphones sold were BlackBerry models. By 2009, though, its share of the global smartphone market was down to 20 percent. It fell to 16 percent in 2010 and 5 percent in 2012, and in 2013, its share was too low for analysts to delineate on top-five lists.
BlackBerry's fall from the top of the smartphone market was due to the arrival of the Apple iPhone and then Android, coupled with BlackBerry's underestimation of the market impact of consumer smartphone preferences, which ultimately led to the bring-your-own device (BYOD) trend.
In 2014, BlackBerry has been a far steadier company, under the sure hand of Chen. Industry insiders now expect it to retain a core base of customers within regulated industries and enterprise users who appreciate BlackBerry's security features.
At the same time, though, the days of BlackBerry being the company in the enterprise space—the standard smartphone for corporate for IT departments—are likely over, according to analysts.