I’m still not sold on the Venice, and most of it has nothing to do with BlackBerry

We’ve been reporting rumors and speculating for months, and now we finally have hands-on video of the BlackBerry Venice — irrefutable proof confirming a device that’s had the media’s practically undivided attention for weeks. Finally, a BlackBerry phone running Android. Michael even wrote a piece touching on why the Venice might be his next phone, but amidst all of the excitement, I always end up feeling like I’m the only one not interested in owning one.

I should probably start by mentioning that I’ve never owned a BlackBerry device before (though I did spent a few weeks with the Q10). I have no defense against the classic “don’t knock it ’till you try it” argument, and by all means it’s possible that spending some time with the Venice myself could make me a believer. But most of my hesitations regarding the phone have revolved around hardware, rather than software, and even though for some it’s the main attraction, I just can’t get into that vertical physical slider keyboard.

BlackBerry Venice slideI don’t trust sliding mechanisms. They work well enough at first, and like clicking the button at the end of an S Pen, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with sliding the screen on your phone back and forth. But that very act can often hasten the inevitable wear on the mechanism itself, and eventually you end up with a phone that’s either resistant to sliding out when necessary, or just stuck altogether. It wouldn’t be the end of the world on a modern phone like the Venice if the keyboard were eventually stuck shut, thanks to the wonderfully capable software keyboards available, but then again … isn’t the physical keyboard one of the biggest reasons to buy a BlackBerry in the first place? On top of that, while the Venice actually looks to be quite slim for a slider phone … it’s definitely thicker than nearly every other flagship device currently available, since that sliding keyboard has to go somewhere. Some people might actually find this to be more of a perk than anything, since a lot of phones these days are getting a bit too thin to comfortably use (I’m looking at you, Galaxy S6 edge+).

More than just complaints about the keyboard, I’m concerned that the Venice doesn’t seem to have much of a specific target demographic. BlackBerry has been hemorrhaging market share for quite a while now, and a lot of people think that the company is running out of chances for its legendary hardware division. Some would even argue that the Venice is its last chance (though I wouldn’t bet on that). Despite my gripes about a slide-out keyboard, the Venice looks to have remarkably well-built hardware, as we’ve come to expect from BlackBerry, and many of the software features like BlackBerry Hub provide truly useful additions to Android, but who exactly is the Venice for? The businessman who wants Enterprise-class features with the diverse app selection available to Android? The casual user who still yearns for a physical keyboard? Somewhere in-between? I’m worried that the potential user base is little more than a collection of niche audiences that won’t total out into a very high sales figure.

BlackBerry Venice Hands OnOn the other hand, an Android phone with BlackBerry features might be exactly what longtime fans of the company want, and it could potentially even drive in new users, so long as the price is reasonable — a detail we’re still not entirely clear on. More importantly, even if it doesn’t sell in the millions, so long as the reviews from the media and the consumers that do get their hands on the Venice remain positive, this could open doors for future Android endeavors from the company. I want BlackBerry to succeed, just as I want every company to succeed. I’m not sure if the Venice will be the halo phone to bring the company back to a semblance of its former glory, but at the very least, it could be its first foot in the door back in the game.

Are you interested in the BlackBerry Venice? Do you think you’ll buy one, or at least check it out in stores? Most importantly, do you think the Venice can save BlackBerry from impending doom?

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Hayato Huseman