The Future of BlackBerry 10 Sales Looks Hazy

The Atlantic Wire

Early sales figures from abroad suggest high demand for one of BlackBerry's two big comeback phones... in the struggling Canadian company's strongest market. As the U.S. market remains on standby for sales and even ads, reports from both analysts and suppliers suggest sold-out new models in the United Kingdom, the first and only place the BlackBerry Z10 is available yet. "We believe Carphone Warehouse is seeing widespread sell-outs, while O2, Vodafone, Orange and EE are seeing robust demand," Jefferies analyst Peter Misek writes. "We estimate sell-in to be at least several hundred thousand units," he added. It's not that these sales aren't deserved — the gadget reviewers loved the touchscreen Z10, for the most part, and the full-keyboard Q10 model that also works with the new BlackBerry 10 OS isn't on sale anywhere yet. But if any place would like a touchscreen BlackBerry, it would be the UK. Because the British may not have abandoned the smartphone keyboard, but they fell out of love it with a lot more slowly than Americans did  — BlackBerry held on to 12 percent of its market share there last year, compared to the 2 percent in the U.S. Unfortunately for the company formerly known as Research in Motion, the earliest signs suggest the Z10 may not change that lack of enthusiasm in the states.

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The lack of stateside BlackBerry enthusiasm starts with American wireless carriers. U.S. customers can't even buy the Z10 until sometime in March — we'll be the last country to get it in this initial wave. The delay stems from a Federal Communications Commission approval process that will take weeks. While that might sound like a regulatory technicality, it may also reflect a lack of excitement to get the phone out there. None of the cellphone companies have started taking pre-sale orders, and all but one failed to provide an executive quote playing up the new BlackBerry, as PC Mag's Sascha Segan pointed out. Sprint won't even sell the Z10, opting to push out the more traditional Q10 and its signature keyboard when that phone starts to hit carriers in April. 

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The Z10 sales delay could work in BlackBerry's favor in one peculiar way — it should give consumers enough time to forget about the very weird, very desperate product unveiling. Still, two months is also enough time for initial hype to wear off, as other, newer phones get more and more attention — the much anticipated Samsung Galaxy SIV will supposedly come out around March as well. To keep Americans excited, BlackBerry has spent hundreds of millions on an ad campaign in the U.S., reports The Wall Street Journal. But the company's new Super Bowl ad, which focused on all the things the new BlackBerry can't dohas techies baffled:

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"It's just hard to see how you can introduce a new product without covering a single feature," wrote The Verge's T.C. Sotteck of the new spot. Lucky for BlackBerry, the ad was a one-time Super Sunday move. Its "Keep Moving" campaign, which focuses on what the phone can do, will debut today. The 60-second preview sampled over at The Verge sounds like it does a better job selling Z10's features. "[The ad] featured a side-scrolling view of people moving through different variations on work and play: a nod to the company's enterprise-focused heritage," Sottech writes.

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