Lukewarm reviews dampen launch of new BlackBerry


The afterglow of the Research In Motion BlackBerry 10 unveiling has faded as a flurry of lukewarm reviews signalled the company’s struggle to regain momentum in the hyper-competitive smartphone market was just beginning.

Shares of BlackBerry, RIM’s new corporate name, fell almost 10pc yesterday, after a 12pc decline the previous day, as some tech analysts questioned whether the new BB10 devices the company launched on Wednesday were the surefire hit that BlackBerry needs to get back into the game.

Such lukewarm reviews – combined with disappointment around a later-than-expected and still unspecified date for the US sales debut – spooked investors and prompted analysts to cut their price targets and forecasts.

BlackBerry, which is making a big push to win back the all-important US market with a Super Bowl ad this weekend, said the new Z10 touch-screen device would not go on sale in the United States until sometime in mid-March, saying US carriers need more time to test the model.

“The shine from the Super Bowl ad will be a fading memory by the time US customers can buy in March,” said TD Securities analyst Scott Penner, who has a “hold” rating on the stock.

Samsung may also steal some of BlackBerry’s thunder as buzz around its Galaxy IV device heats up before the Z10 hits US store shelves, Mr Penner pointed out.

Making matters worse for BlackBerry, it has not been very specific about how soon it will be before many of its most loyal fans across the globe can get their hands on the Q10 – its new qwerty keyboard model. The company has only said that it aims to release this version of the smartphone in April.

“While later-than-expected availability of the Z10 and Q10 devices shouldn’t impact the longer-term potential success of the BB10 platform, we believe it does mitigate one of the near-term catalysts for the stock,” said Paradigm Capital analyst Gabriel Leung, who trimmed his price target on the stock to $16 from $19.50.

Initially at least, the BlackBerry 10 is aimed squarely at the North American and European markets, where consumers and businesses alike are eager to snap up high-end devices.

In countries like India – the world’s second-largest mobile phone market – the premium cost of the new Z10 handset will restrict sales.

Even so, the new device, which sources said will likely enter the key Indian market in mid-February, could help the Canadian company compete with premium rivals such as Apple there.