Unlike JNCOs and beanie babies, it seems smartphone maker BlackBerry may have longevity. The embattled Canadian company surprised pundits on Friday when reports emerged that Walmart had exhausted inventory of BlackBerry’s first Android flagship, the Priv, in a single day.
The $699 Priv, which was previously only available through AT&T brick-and-mortar locations and Amazon.com, launched in Walmart earlier this week. The retailer’s website reported the smartphone “out of stock” by midday today, news which sent BlackBerry’s stock soaring 7 percent.
Bloomberg attributed the demand to both appeal and timing. The holiday season no doubt motivated some shoppers to pull the trigger early, according to the report, and the Priv, unlike other recent BlackBerry handsets, runs Android — an arguably more attractive software to potential phone buyers than BlackBerry’s cumbersome, confusing BB10.
But calls for celebration may be a bit premature. The Priv is showing as “in stock” on Walmart.com as of the time of publication, a possible indication that the initial sell out of devices was of a very small batch. Blackberry’s so far declined to comment.
Assuming today’s unprecedented sales weren’t just a quirk of inventory management, though, BlackBerry could be well on its way to meeting the fiscal goals for its smartphone division that it’s publicly outlined. In an interview with The Verge, CEO John Chen pegged the company’s break-even point at 5 million devices a year, and has repeatedly expressed a willingness to cut loose the phone business if it falls short of that benchmark. BlackBerry has its work cut out for it; the company sold a mere 800,000 devices in Q3 of this year.
Perhaps in recognition of that stark fact, Blackberry’s working to expand the Priv’s availability and network. Verizon recently announced that it’d offer the phone “soon.” And T-Mobile told CNET in November that it was “definitely talking with Blackberry” and “may have something to report” in the coming weeks.
In our review of the Priv last month, we called Blackberry’s Android slider relatively high marks for a beautiful display and excellent keyboard, calling it “the first reason to consider a Blackberry in years.”