Blackberry’s plan to win back users in India has nothing to do with its devices

Say goodbye.
Say goodbye.
Image: Reuters/Dado Ruvic
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Indians were big BlackBerry fans until just a few years ago. But once smartphones took off, they quickly turned to cheap and cheerful smartphones running Google’s Android operating system.

Instead of trying to win them back to its handsets, BlackBerry is trying to win them back to its services. According to reports in Indian newspapers, the Canadian handset manufacturer will introduce a service that allows users to operate up to nine phone numbers from a single SIM card. Quartz has asked Blackberry for comment, and will update this post with any response.

This is an acknowledgement of a large and growing market worldwide: Just under half of Android users in India have dual-SIM devices.

Image for article titled Blackberry’s plan to win back users in India has nothing to do with its devices
Image: Quartz

According to the Hindustan Times, BlackBerry’s new SIM, offered in conjunction with Idea Cellular, a mobile operator, will allow users to separate their work and personal lives, using a different number and billing plan for each while using the same physical device. The system has the benefit of working on all phones, rather than just dual-SIM devices. And it allows people to segregate different parts of their lives.

Movirtu on Android.
Movirtu on Android.
Image: Movirtu

The technology that allows multiple numbers on one SIM comes from Movirtu, a London-based company Quartz profiled last summer, that BlackBerry acquired in Sept. 2014. Movirtu had just signed a deal with Airtel to bring the technology to Africa. The thinking at the time was that poor people who don’t own a physical mobile device could still have a number—and then make and receive calls on other people’s phones using their own virtual SIMs.

The other, more profitable, business of virtual SIMs, the CEO explained at the time, was to look to the West and offer the service to companies as an alternative to handing out work handsets. In recent times, employees have become more comfortable using their own devices than company-issued ones. But companies may still prefer if the numbers belong to the firm—and can be cancelled when an employees leaves.