Have BlackBerry Keyboard Users Moved On?

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — April 22, 2013

BlackBerry is back to being profitable, and with the launch of BB10, President and CEO Thorsten Heins sees a complete transformation for the company. But the Z10, a touchscreen, which kicked off in March, is not exactly selling like or even near its competitors.

A BlackBerry representative has confirmed to Mobile Enterprise that the Q10 should be available in the U.S. by the end of May, priced at a suggested retail price of $249 USD on contract. "Carriers will confirm pricing closer to availability," the rep said through email.  

While U.S. users are still waiting the arrival of the Q10, other countries are reporting high demand in pre-orders, though this has not been verified.

Gartner actually predicts a steady decrease in BlackBerry sales between now and 2017. Detwiler Fenton & Company, a securities analyst firm, even went so far as to claim returns of the Z10 are abnormally high, something BlackBerry adamantly refutes.

"Sales of the BlackBerry Z10 are meeting expectations and the data we have collected from our retail and carrier partners demonstrates that customers are satisfied with their devices," said Heins in a released statement.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek agrees that the returns for the Z10 are within normal range for a smartphone launch. That statement alone has not appeased BlackBerry however. The company said it will ask the Securities and Exchange Commission and Ontario Securities Commission to review Detwiler’s “false and misleading report.”

Is it the Keyboard?
A lukewarm welcome to the Z10 is not what BlackBerry needed to regain share, but there was still hope that diehard users, who want the physical keyboard, would come back in droves to the Q10. Part of the company’s turnaround philosophy is the conversion of current users to the new platform.

However, U.S. carriers have not yet announced a launch date for the device. The upgraded device features a familiar comfort zone – the physical keyboard. And, although the display is smaller, the battery is bigger. So, for those still using the Bold, Curve or Torch, are they holding out for the Q10 or have they moved to Apple or Android?

That depends on who you ask.

Informal discussions show that many have switched — despite having hung on until BB10 was out, the delay with the Q10 was simply too much. During a Q1 results call, Heins said that more than half of BB10 users are coming from other platforms. He never defined half nor was he specific on the “others.”

Meanwhile, it has been reported that some of the major U.K. carriers, (T-Mobile, Vodafone, O2 and EE), say business pre-orders for the Q10 are pouring in. According to an Orange representative, the device is not even available for pre-order, so sales figures are unavailable.

Canadian pre-orders are open as well, but carriers are quiet about results to date.

Update, April 24: A Rogers representative has confirmed to Mobile Enterprise that not only have sales for the Z10 been strong but thousands of customers have pre-ordered the Q10 as well. "Retail availability of this device will be announced soon, please stay tuned," the rep said through email.

Canadian Tire Selects BlackBerry
From the enterprise perspective,  one example of a company deploying BlackBerry 10 smartphones is Canadian Tire. The company has selected BlackBerry as its official smartphone for its corporate team across Canada. Beginning at the end of April, employees from across its family of companies – including Canadian Tire, Financial Services, Mark’s and FGL Sports – will use a mix of Z10s and Q10s.

“With 90 years of history serving Canadians in communities from coast-to-coast, it’s fitting that we’re partnering with another great Canadian company to support our business,” said Eugene Roman, Chief Technology Officer, Canadian Tire Corporation, in a press release.

Several thousand units have been purchased but the company could not yet confirm how many of each device will be ordered, whether it will be an even split between the smartphones. A company spokesperson did tell Mobile Enterprise that “employees can decide which device they’d prefer.” In addition, employees using older BlackBerry models will continue to use them, but eventually they will all transition over to Q10s and Z10s.

According to the company, Canadian Tire’s mobile app for BlackBerry, which launched three years ago, is one of Canada's most popular mobile applications. Last year alone, the company had over 20 million mobile visits through the app and mobile optimized site.


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