BlackBerry’s top brass eagerly danced around the issue of a U.S. launch date for its new Z10 smartphone during its grand BlackBerry 10 unveiling, but the folks at Bloomberg may have shed some new light on the Canadian company’s plans. Bloomberg reports that AT&T is preparing to release the BlackBerry Z10 on March 22, though AT&T has been unsurprisingly quiet on the matter.
If other recent reports hold true, AT&T’s Z10 won’t be by itself for long — it’s been said that T-Mobile is gearing up for a mid-March Z10 launch of its own (though a leaked carrier roadmap has the launch pegged for later in the month), and Verizon Wireless is expected to push its version out the door sometime in April. On the other hand, Sprint has chosen to skip the all-touch Z10 entirely, opting to carry only the QWERTY keyboard-packing Q10 later this year.
With general interest in BlackBerry waning over the past few years thanks to some ambitious competitors, RIM has its work cut out for it if it wants to make another splash in the United States. If comScore’s most recent mobile market share report is to be believed, BlackBerry devices only account for 5.9% of the U.S. smartphones in use (down from roughly 7.8% in October 2012). Granted, RIM still seems to have a better handle on things than Microsoft and its Windows Phones, but a solid domestic launch could see the company solidify its position as the third major mobile OS.
Of course, part of BlackBerry’s continued resilience has to do with its performance in developing markets, and CEO Thorsten Heins recently shed some light on the company’s plans for shoring up its positions there.
According to a recent Q&A with Bloomberg, Heins and the rest of the company don’t intend to take on low-cost handset manufacturers like ZTE and Huawei, which have made significant inroads not only in China but India and parts of Africa as well. Their major draw is their ability to churn out reasonably robust, sub-$100 Android smartphones, and that’s the sort of game BlackBerry doesn’t seem eager to play.
“This is not BlackBerry,” Heins said, adding that this year would see the release of multiple LTE-enabled BlackBerry 10 devices “geared towards those price bands where people need to be.”
While the company could surely pick up some points for churning out low-cost, no-frills hardware in the right markets, its current approach seems to be doing well for now. The company has already released the Z10 in India, and despite the fact that the device costs Rs 43490 (roughly $794) Heins says the Z10 was sold out within two days.