On the heels of reports of sellouts of BlackBerry's new Q10 model in the U.K. and Canada, photos of a lower-priced version of the Q10 have reportedly been leaked on the Web. Will BlackBerry models that retain the characteristic physical keyboards turn out to be the company's savior, instead of the all-touchscreen Z10?
The R10 is expected to be a mid-range successor to the Q10, and the first mid-priced model for the company's new BlackBerry 10 platform. Reported specs include a physical QWERTY keyboard, a 3.1-inch display with the same 720x720 resolution as the Q10, a 5-megapixel camera, 2 GB of memory and 8 GB storage.
The R10 is expected to be available in various colors, and there are indications that the 1800 mAh battery will be non-removable. Differences with the Q10 appear to include a lower-resolution camera and somewhat smaller storage.
Some BlackBerry-watchers are speculating that the R10 may be available within a few weeks, before or around the BlackBerry Live event scheduled for May 14-16 in Orlando, Fla.
Meanwhile, reports continue to indicate that the Q10 is selling well in both Canada and the U.K. Among others, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek has recently said that his sources at retailers and carriers point to wide-scale sellouts or limited availability in those countries. Misek also praised the company's new BB device management software, which he said a number of companies are testing.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense recently gave security clearance to BB10 devices, which allows them to be considered for use on American military networks.
Although much of BlackBerry's marketing push has been behind the all-touchscreen Z10, that model's reception has been lackluster compared with the Q10. The Z10's U.S. launch was more than two months later than expected, there were reports -- vigorously denied by BlackBerry -- that it had high return rates, and sales have been modest. The company said a million Z10s were sold in the quarter ending March 2. At least one investment firm has speculated that BlackBerry is in the process of cutting back on making Z10s.
New or Existing Customers?
A key question is whether the Q10 buyers -- and potentially the R10 buyers -- are existing BlackBerry users who are accustomed to a physical keyboard, or are owners of other brands who are switching.
If the former, the sales spurt could mean that the company will not be able to build more market share, which it needs to survive the growing duopoly of Android/iOS and the budding competition from Windows Phone and Firefox OS-based devices. If the latter, BlackBerry could be increasing its footprint, but the question then would be if it is holding onto its existing customer base.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said the biggest story about BlackBerry is how aggressive CEO Thorsten Heins has been.
"The takeaway of all of this," she said, "is the perception that BlackBerry isn't dead, that it's a dynamic company and that 'we're not going to roll over and die.' "
She noted that this perception is essential if existing consumers and companies currently using BlackBerry's products are going to stay with its products.