RIM’s latest BlackBerry push–an aggressive one with many models available on multiple carriers running the latest BlackBerry 7 operating system–may still present troublesome news for the Canadian smartphone-maker. Despite garnering a lot of buzz and interest, Canaccord Genuity presents its findings that these smartphones fail to excite consumer interest, despite better hardware and the inclusion of a touchscreen on models such as the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 series, the BlackBerry Torch 9810, and the BlackBerry Torch 9850 series.
The research firm found that Verizon has seen strong demand for its flagship BlackBerry Bold 9930 while results on other carriers were mixed. At $300, the Bold on T-Mobile is competing in the same price segment as Verizon’s 4G LTE smartphones and the 32 GB high-end Apple iPhone .
Still, in spite of strong demand on Verizon, the Bold 9930 is still failing to attract consumer attention. Store checks revealed that consumer customers are still opting for rival Android and iOS operating systems while RIM’s traditional enterprise base is captivated by the Bold, which for the first time comes with a touchscreen.
“With the Bold 9900 the first compelling new BlackBerry in nearly two years for Verizon customers, we were encouraged as our checks indicated Verizon’s large BlackBerry enterprise base appears to have strong demand for the first BlackBerry OS 7 device on Verizon’s network. However, our more consumer-centric retail store checks indicated smartphone consumers continue to overwhelmingly choose the iPhone 4 or new Android smartphones versus the $250 Bold 9900.”
On AT&T, aggressive pricing of the Torch 9810–also referred to as the Torch 4G or the Torch 2–is helping that model succeed. When the original Torch was released, it was priced at $200 and didn’t generate enough sales. RIM is now pricing the second-generation Torch, with improved hardware at $50, giving more incentives to consumers to take a second look at the BlackBerry model. The Torch 9810 is now competing in the same segment as the consumer-centric keyboarded HTC Status, which is dubbed the ‘Facebook phone,’ and the low-end Apple 3GS.
The research firm noted that T-Mobile‘s high pricing of the BlackBerry Bold 9000 is resulting in weaker demand while at Sprint, limited supply of both the BlackBerry Bold 9930 and the Torch 9850 are selling out. Still, Sprint store managers say that Android phones are doing better than BlackBerry, and the sellout of BlackBerry models at retail is due to limited store inventory.
So while this lineup of BlackBerry devices is the strongest for RIM, the company still faces challenges ahead as it needs to compete in the consumer segment against Windows Phone 7, which is already being dubbed the third horse in a three-horse race, along with Android and iOS. With the consumerization of IT, we’re going to see more enterprise users bring consumer-centric devices to work in the future, further chipping away at RIM’s grip at its traditional user base over time. Additionally, Motorola and Smasung have already released Android devices with the BlackBerry form factor to woo some of RIM’s enterprise customers who may appreciate the keyboard, but want to run apps and games.
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