BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) finally released its radically reimagined flagship smartphone in the U.S. on Friday, but in its early going, the BlackBerry Z10 isn't quite the breakout success that CEO Thorsten Heins was hoping for.
Heins, who was appointed last January after RIM’s former co-CEOs were ousted, has been a consistent cheerleader for his company’s rebranding efforts, writing newspaper columns and hyperbolizing the greatness of his company’s innovations. Unfortunately, hype – perceived or real – doesn’t always translate into dollars.
Despite Heins’ confident assertions that stock of the BlackBerry Z10 had run low in several stores and shops – “White is sold out already,” he said – many retailers have pointed to the contrary, saying the BlackBerry Z10 handsets haven't sold too well at all. In fact, according to the Daily Telegraph, many British stores said they had “loads left” and “plenty left,” while Phones 4U, the exclusive UK supplier of the white BlackBerry Z10, said it didn't sell out of the handsets, contrary to Heins’ statement.
Shares fell as much as 9.4 percent on Friday from $16.80 to $14.64, and fell an additional 4.6 percent in Monday trading, to $14.23.
They had rebounded slightly to $14.46 on Tuesday, but the drop has been disappointing -- considering how prior to the BlackBerry Z10 release date, it had climbed about 36 percent in the last year -- likely a result of the hype built around the BlackBerry 10 operating system.
Pacific Crest analyst James Faucette believes the BlackBerry Z10’s poor sales and the company’s dipping stock don't bode well for its rebounding efforts.
“The case for [BlackBerry’s] recovery has been that in the long run, the company could return to selling high-end handsets that would feature enough profitability that handset profits could more than offset long-term declines in the highly profitable service business,” Faucette said. “We believe that meaningful price cuts so soon after launch, while probably at the initial discretion of the carriers, is likely to relegate the Z10 to being a mid-tier device with very low gross margins.”
BlackBerry Z10 Release Date Hits: Time For A Price Cut Already?
BlackBerry took a big leap of faith with the BlackBerry 10 operating system and the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone. Unlike BlackBerry phones of old, the Z10 features no physical keyboard or any physical navigation controls (i.e. buttons), but in that way, the Z10 isn’t just unlike any BlackBerry that’s come before it, but any smartphone in general.
The BlackBerry Z10 operates on a gesture-based operating system, where users swipe in a myriad of directions to open menus, launch applications and trigger the phone’s various features. That said, there's a slight learning curve to the new environment, especially for those enterprise users fond of their old BlackBerry handsets with full QWERTY keyboards.
Unfortunately for BlackBerry, the U.S. price of the Z10 is identical to its most popular competitors, which means indecisive consumers may be more likely to choose an iPhone or Galaxy S phone over the new BlackBerry simply because their operating systems are more familiar and their third-party marketplaces are much more substantial.
While many have wondered if BlackBerry will resort to price cuts so soon, retailers are reportedly slashing prices for the BlackBerry Z10 to spur along sales of the struggling handset. UK-based electronics reseller Carphone Warehouse, according to the Telegraph, has cut the price of the BlackBerry Z10 on the 3 network from £36 per month to £29 per month, a total savings of roughly £139.
BlackBerry likely won’t slash the price of the Z10 until the phone’s spent more time on the market – this phone is far from a dud – but it would be wise of BlackBerry to consider reducing the Z10’s price to make it more competitive with the established smartphone offerings from Apple, Google, Samsung and others.
BlackBerry Z10 Release Date Hits: How Does It Stack Up?
For comparison’s sake, the BlackBerry Z10 is longer, wider and slightly thicker than the iPhone 5 (exact dimensions are 5.12" x 2.58" x 0.35"), but the BlackBerry Z10 is nowhere near as gargantuan as the Android-based smartphones available on the market, including Samsung's best-selling Galaxy Note 2. That said, the BlackBerry Z10 has a brilliant 4.2-inch 1280 x 768 display, which actually has a higher pixel density than the iPhone 5's Retina display, and only weighs 4.78 ounces.
The BlackBerry Z10 is powered by Qualcomm’s latest dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon processor and a 1800mAH removable battery that can achieve 10 hours of 3G talk time and 305 hours of standby time; comparatively, the iPhone 5 can only muster eight hours of talk time and 225 hours of standby time.
As far as "smart" features go, the BlackBerry Z10 boasts an 8-megapixel rear camera with 1080p HD video recording, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, but within its operating system lies an even more powerful camera feature called "TimeShift," which allows users to adjust individual faces within a group shot to get different views of them by capturing multiple shots of their face before and after the actual snapshot is taken. Users will find it easy to scroll back and replace any individual's face with a different shot, taken either seconds before or after the group shot was taken.
Of course, no phone experience is complete without third-party applications. BlackBerry boasted at its January event that it will have roughly 70,000 apps available to download at launch, with more promised to release shortly thereafter. It isn't much compared to the 700,000 apps available on Google Play or the 800,000 apps on the iOS App Store, but it's a start.
BlackBerry sells the Z10 in black through a variety of retailers, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Best Buy and Radio Shack. The company will release an exclusive white version of the BlackBerry Z10 through Verizon Wireless later this year.
Would you purchase a BlackBerry Z10? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments section below.