BlackBerry Z10 sales & prices are sinking: Blame Samsung Galaxy S4

Launched amid much fanfare on January 30, the Z10 was supposed to be BlackBerry’s return ticket to stardom.

Indeed, it is, in our own words, the biggest thing to happen to BlackBerry since BlackBerry.

But since the launch of the dynamic new phone from the recently rebranded BlackBerry, the Z10 has been fraught with supply issues and, more than that, the unveiling of newer offerings from rivals, including the HTC One, the Sony Xperia Z and the Samsung Galaxy S4.

It might come as no surprise, then, that the device that showed a lot of promise during its not-so-distant launch, seems to be now headed downhill – including its price.

Online deals on the BlackBerry Z10 are getting hotter by the day across the UAE, with group buying websites jumping in on the frenzy – the best bargain yet: Dh2,170 for the handset that is officially priced at Dh2,599.

BlackBerry Z10 seems to have had a very short time in the limelight – 32 days, to be precise. The Z10 was launched on January 30, 2013, but stocks became available only in early February. In the UAE, the Z10 has been available at retail stores since February 10, 2013.

Then, on March 14, 2013, the Samsung Galaxy S4 presented itself – and perhaps changed the fortunes of BlackBerry once again. No wonder BlackBerry seemed to be in a rush to launch the Z10 even when it knew it would have supply issues.

A new research note from Citigroup analyst Jim Suva states that sales of the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone have “dramatically slowed” after an initial “honeymoon” and that carriers “have already shifted promotions to other products [read: Samsung Galaxy S4] and moved the Z10 to less favourable in-store locations.”

 

The Z10 has been officially available in the UAE since February 10, and today, within a month-and-a-half since then, prices seem to have slipped more than 16 per cent.

 

While BlackBerry's official UAE retail partner, Axiom Telecom, continues to market the handset at a retail price of Dh2,599, demand dynamics and market forces have perhaps pushed other retailers to slash their own margins and offer the new handset at cheaper rates.

Dubai-based discount site JadoPado.com is offering the all-new BlackBerry Z10 at a price of Dh2,199, a discount of 15.4 per cent on the official retail price.

But the handset seems to be available at a further discount at Dubai-based mobile handset retailer Silver Vision Trading’s online store, at Dh2,170 per unit.

Retailer Sharaf DG is offering the handset at the same official price (Dh2,599), but has thrown in a free MP3 player worth Dh124 with the handset. However, the free MP3 offer is not limited to just BlackBerry or the Z10 – the retailer is offering the music player free with the purchase of any mobile phone worth Dh500 0r more. That includes the Apple iPhone 5 as well.

Incidentally, the price-slash is not limited to the UAE – retail price of the Z10 has reportedly been slashed elsewhere in the world too.

According to the Telegraph, UK-based Carphone Warehouse has slashed the price of the Z10 by £139 over a two-year contract period.

The daily reported in early March that the payment terms on the 3 network had been reduced to £29 (Dh162) up front on £29 per month, two-year contract. It noted that, earlier, the contract cost £36 (Dh201) per month with a free handset – so the total reduction (over the 2-year contract period) works out to around £139 (Dh777).

The Telegraph quoted James Faucette, an analyst at Pacific Crest, saying the cuts were not a good sign for BlackBerry’s recovery hopes. He suggested that the price-sash so soon after the launch tended to “position the Z10 as a mid-level device rather than a competitor to the iPhone and Galaxy SIII, which target the top end where profit margins are biggest.”

Indeed, the BlackBerry Z10 has been pitted against smartphone stalwarts such as the iPhone and the Galaxy range of Samsung phones.

Read: Which smartphone? Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 vs HTC One vs Xperia Z vs BlackBerry Z10.

“We believe that meaningful price-cuts, so soon after launch, while probably at the initial discretion of the carriers, is likely to relegate the Z10 to being a mid-tier device with very low gross margins,” Faucette was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.

Elsewhere too, in Canada, BlackBerry’s home market, prices have declined in line with global trends. According to Softpedia.com, the BlackBerry Z10 was launched at all Canadian carriers, including TELUS, Rogers and Bell, for $150/€110 with a new three-year agreement.

On March 17, however, the website reported that the new device is available for $100/€75 with at least three Canadian carriers – Rogers, Bell and Virgin Mobile. The portal added that “even though only three carriers [have] discounted the BlackBerry Z10 [until now], we expect more Canadian operators to add to the initiative.”

In India too, NerdBerry.com, a portal focused on BlackBerry news, claims that Z10 prices are on a downhill. On March 19, NerdBerry reported that the price of a Z10 handset in India have slipped from Rs43,490 (approximately Dh3,000) to Dh39,990 (~Dh2,750).

If this price-slash is indeed market dictated – and not a marketing ploy by the parent company to wrest market share – then the signs for a BlackBerry’s comeback are ominous.

Especially with the Samsung Galaxy S4, which will soon hit stores across the world, and rumours about a killer iPhone 6 hotting up, hopes of a BlackBerry revival are fast fading.

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