If you’re a keyboard junkie who’s been waiting patiently for a BB10 device that’s more affordable than the Q10, then the fact that you might have to sell your motorcycle to buy one might be some cause for some alarm. Okay, probably nothing that dramatic, but here’s what’s currently making the rounds about the BlackBerry Q5’s pricing, and on Forbes no less. The Q5 is reported to cost N65,000/$400.

That doesn’t sound like a budget smartphone now, does it? At that price, I’m inclined to agree that it’s insane, on many levels. It sounds like the 4Afrika smartphone all over again, only that what it lacks in condescension, it more than makes up for in taxes.

But before I go to why I think so, let me quickly point out — the source of the Forbes columnist’s pricing information turns out to be Jumia. Nigerian retailers are famous for padding gadget prices with obscene margins, especially with hugely anticipated devices like iPhones, and in Nigeria at least, BlackBerries. Last Christmas, I called Konga and Jumia out on their iPhone 5 pricing, with interesting results.

That’s why I’d suggest taking the Forbes piece with a healthy pinch, and wait to see if word from BlackBerry on the actual price range will allow the market will correct itself. In Nokia’s case for instance, they made it clear that the 520 should cost around 28k. Even though it ended up selling for mostly 30k, the retailers weren’t able to pull their usual margin shenanigans.

Unverified pricing data aside, I think the writer of that article makes many valid arguments. I’ve seen the Q5, and it is neither specced out nor has the looks of a premium device. Like its better endowed sibling, its number one selling point is it’s physical keyboard. But beyond the quaint appeal of qwerty nostalgia, it can’t boast of much else that isn’t equal to or outmatched by competing devices in that price range.

More importantly however, it’s not so much about whether or not the Q5 is worth $400 as much as it is about how BlackBerry is adopting what appears to be a ham-handed emerging market strategy, and definitely at odds with what has been earlier said about targeting its die-hard loyalists in emerging markets.

The 8520 is by far the most successful BlackBerry model in these markets, because it is priced within reach of the people at the top of the bottom of the pyramid — if that makes any sense. Ignoring that demographic would be a very costly mistake that could further steepen the Canadian OEM’s already precarious position. Nokia should know. They are now now just showing signs of recovering from the hit their marketshare took from years of neglecting midrange to entry-level smartphone buyers to chase after the high end market. They’ve since regained their senses and have brought the Lumia experience to the masses. Want proof that it works? Their aggressively priced Lumia 520 has rocketed to the top of their sales chart right out the gate, capturing 13 percent of Nokia Lumia usage footprint. Not bad for a device that was launched in April.

BlackBerry scooped up lots of Nigerian buyers who couldn’t find moderately priced Nokia devices that allowed them keep up with the Joneses. At this rate, Nokia could turn the tables on them with the exact same strategy. Don’t forget that they’ve been proposing to commit what looks like hara-kiri, with the as of yet unconsummated porting of BBM to iOS and Android, leaving the gates wide open for Tecno to charge in and deliver the coup de grace.

Unless of course BlackBerry has a more agreeably priced BB10 device waiting in the wings.

At N65k, I think BlackBerry’s latest “budget” smartphone is definitely overpriced. What I’m not entirely certain of is how much cash I’d actually pony up for one. How about you? How much would you pay for a BlackBerry Q5?

Price Tag designed by Atelier Iceberg.

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Cabal, Mobile
9th July 2013

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