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The pressure’s on Priv: BlackBerry may quit handsets if new phone doesn’t sell

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As far as BlackBerry’s handset business goes, it looks like everything’s hanging on the success of the Priv, the company’s first ever Android phone that’s set to hit stores before the end of the year.

Speaking at this week’s Code/Mobile conference in Half Moon Bay, California, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said he’d have to “think twice” about remaining in the handset business if it didn’t turn profitable for the company within a year.

With the company shipping 800,000 phones in its last quarter (a third of the sales made a year earlier) and Chen telling The Verge on Thursday he’s aiming for five million handset sales in 2016, it’s clear that the future of BlackBerry’s mobile device business rests heavily on how consumers take to the Priv.

Priv to the rescue?

Despite launching a number of generally well regarded handsets under Chen’s leadership, BlackBerry, once the most successful smartphone maker in the world, has struggled to make a go of its BB10 mobile platform. Now it’s doing what some say it should have done long ago and pushing an Android phone onto the market, a move it’s hoping won’t turn out to be a case of too little too late.

The company is banking on the Priv attracting fans of BlackBerry’s iconic physical keyboard – some of whom will’ve ditched its phones in recent years for Apple or Android handsets – as well as those looking for a smartphone with solid security features.

Indeed, at the Code/Mobile event this week, Chen was keen to highlight the Priv’s focus on security, claiming it was “on the same level as Samsung’s Knox,” a mobile security solution that’s been gaining attention among businesses as well as U.S. government agencies.

He added that for the time being he’s happy to work with two operating systems – BB10 and Android – though if he can shift all of BB10’s security features to Android he would think about halting new phone launches for BB10, while continuing to offer support for existing users.

Considering BlackBerry’s huge popularity until just a few years ago, it seems remarkable that it could soon turn away from the industry which made it, though taking into account its recent hardship, such a step would surprise few.

Although the Priv is just weeks from launch, there’s still plenty we don’t know about the new smartphone. However, everything we do know, plus all of the latest Priv images, can be found here.

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