Some of B.C.'s largest mobile phone carriers are getting a boost from the much-hyped release of BlackBerry's newest smartphone.
Brent Johnson, vice-president of mobility solutions at Vancouver-headquartered Telus (TSX:T), noted that sales of the new touch-screen BlackBerry Z10 have exceeded the company's initial sales expectations. He added that the Z10 has become one of its top 10 selling phones so far.
Amir Dewji, a performance coach for Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B), said his company sold more BlackBerry phones February 5 than in any other day in the history of the company, which was the first carrier to launch the BlackBerry service in 1999.
The February 5 comments echo news from BlackBerry (TSX:BB), the company formerly known as Research in Motion, that it was the best launch ever for any of the company's devices.
So far, the bulk of the sales have come from intensely loyal BlackBerry users who have held out for years waiting for a smartphone on par with the market-leading Apple iPhone or Google Android-based smartphones from Samsung.
"The gap with Android phones and the iPhone has closed significantly, if not entirely, from a device experience perspective with the BlackBerry 10," said Johnson. "From a consumer perspective, users are able to stay with a brand they trust and enjoy a true smartphone experience. On the business side, certainly for small and medium-sized businesses, it's a similar story."
Dewji also noted that upgrades have come from large business users who have been anticipating the Z10's launch, because of the added features that complement BlackBerry's proprietary data network and backend convenience for IT departments involved in large corporate phone deployments.
While Johnson and Dewji couldn't provide specifics, they both noted that the Z10 has helped BlackBerry regain users that had switched to other smartphone devices.
But whether BlackBerry will be able to turn its corporate fortunes around with its new phones remains in doubt.
According to a CanaccordGenuity analyst report, BlackBerry's global market share is expected to dwindle over the next few years even with its new devices and operating system. BlackBerry's market share of smartphone device sales is expected to fall to 2.9% of the global market by 2014 from 10.7% in 2011. The forecast is similar when comparing smartphones by operating system, with Android-based phones capturing two-thirds of the market by 2014 versus 2.9% for BlackBerry-OS phones.
The report also slashed its original sales predictions for the Z10, now forecasting BlackBerry will sell just 300,000 units, down 85% from the nearly two million units originally suggested. It cites the late U.S. launch and looming big launches from competitors like Samsung and Apple as major factors that will cripple Z10 sales this year.
Whether Canadians will follow the global trend, however, remains to be seen.
"There is a very significant base of BlackBerry users in Canada, so the brand is still very, very strong," said Johnson.
In the meantime, the report noted BlackBerry sales are likely to get a modest boost this year from the upcoming release of the Q10 phone, which runs on the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, but retains its physical keyboard.
Johnson noted the Q10 is unlikely to cannibalize sales of the Z10 because not all BlackBerry users want a touch screen to type on.
"The BlackBerry is the only smartphone I've ever owned, but if I'm going to get a new BlackBerry, it's going to be the one that has the keypad," said Rachel Thexton of Vancouver's Dunn PR. "I'm holding out for when the Q10 comes out. I find that when I type on touch screens, it's typo after typo. A lot of my emails are going to clients, and I simply don't want typos in my emails, and I don't get them on my BlackBerry."
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