BlackBerry Ends Security Updates for PRIV Smartphone

BlackBerry announced it is ending security updates for its PRIV smartphone and says it will close its app store in December, 2019 as the company continues its transition to marketing only mobile security software.

BlackBerry Ends PRIV Security Updates

BlackBerry is ending its monthly software security updates for its two-year-old PRIV smartphone as it continues its transition to an enterprise software company.

Alex Thurber, the senior vice president and general manager of BlackBerry's mobility solutions division, announced the move in a Dec. 14 post on the BlackBerry Blog. In addition, PRIV and other BlackBerry phone owners will soon be given details for a trade-up program that will enable PRIV owners and users of older devices to get a new smartphone from one of two companies that produce BlackBerry-branded handsets under license.

"When we introduced our first Android device more than 24 months ago, we committed to delivering 2 years of monthly software updates for the PRIV," wrote Thurber. "True to our word, we fulfilled this commitment though in truth, the PRIV's built-in security posture had little need for many of the updates we delivered in conjunction with partners such as Google and Qualcomm."

Now that two years have passed since the phone was released, "we will no longer be delivering monthly updates for the PRIV moving forward," he added. The company will continue, however, to honor warranty claims for the devices still used by owners.

PRIV users won't be left stranded, though, if a critical security vulnerability surfaces in the meantime, he wrote. If a critical security vulnerability emerges, "we will engage our partners as needed to develop and deliver necessary patches," he added.

BlackBerry declined further comment on the announcement when contacted by eWEEK.

In related news, the company also announced that it is closing its BlackBerry World app store on Dec. 31, 2019, closing its BlackBerry Travel site in February 2018 and shuttering its Playbook video calling service in March 2018. 

The decision to close the app store is particularly notable because the company had highlighted its value to BlackBerry phone users for providing access to the same kinds of apps available to iPhone and Android customers.

BlackBerry built its last BB10 and BBOS devices in 2015 as it moved to Android devices, and then announced in September of 2016 that it was dropping production and sales of all handsets to focus on its mobile security services, while licensing its handset designs and production to third-party manufacturers.

Meanwhile, the company will provide "at least two full years of additional support for BB10 and at least two full years of BlackBerry network access for BBOS devices," according to BlackBerry's announcement.

BlackBerry announced the Android-powered PRIV in September 2015 in hopes that it would help the company reclaim some hardware market share that it lost to Android phones and Apple's iPhones. BlackBerry, which had stood fast with its own operating system for its products for years, made a huge shift by releasing its first Android phone as it tried to remain relevant as a smartphone maker.

A decade ago, BlackBerry was still the clear leader in enterprise mobile devices. But its fall from enterprise mobile phone dominance was swift and stunning. In early 2006, a year before the first iPhones appeared from Apple in 2007, half of all smartphones sold worldwide were BlackBerry models. By 2009, though, its share of the global smartphone market was down to 20 percent.

The latest BlackBerry-licensed handset, the KEYone, was released by TCL in June.