Just days after Bloomberg ran a report claiming that AT&T would release BlackBerry’s long-awaited Z10 smartphone on March 22, AT&T has issued a statement confirming that launch will indeed go forward as reported. Prospective BlackBerry owners will have to shell out $199 for the Canadian company’s new flagship and (for better or worse) sign a two year contract.
In the event that you absolutely need to have one (a sentiment that our own Darrell Etherington didn’t share in his full review), AT&T will kick off the pre-order process starting tomorrow, March 12.
This makes AT&T the second of the three major U.S. wireless carriers to announce availability for the Z10 — T-Mobile announced late last week that its business customers would be able to get their hands on the device starting today, though it remained decidedly mum when it came to general consumer availability. Verizon on the other hand is widely expected to push BlackBerry’s Z10 out the door sometime in April, and Sprint has decided to focus solely on the QWERTY keyboard-packing Q10 (see our hands-on impressions here).
With any luck, BlackBerry will see a surge of U.S. customers joining the fold shortly, but the experience they’ll be treated to upon arrival may not be as complete as they would hope.
There’s no question BlackBerry 10 plays home to some neat concepts and impressive UI flourishes — I’ve grown quite fond of fiddling with the demo Z10 the company graciously handed out en masse at its launch event — the distinct lack of certain popular applications that has forced some developers to take matters into their own hands. The tepid app environment (sideloading notwithstanding) could leave some curious consumers cold on the platform as a whole, and that’s exactly what RIM can’t afford right now. Then again, this just leaves room for upstart developers and entrepreneurs to make their mark by targeting a segment of the smartphone market that’s currently underserved, so BlackBerry 10 may hit its stride soon anyway.