By Dow Jones Business News, March 22, 2013, 06:11:00 PM EDT
(Updates with comment from a Samsung spokeswoman.)
By Drew FitzGerald, Ian Sherr and Will Connors
Research in Motion Ltd.'s ( BBRY ) new BlackBerry landed with a bit of a thud in the U.S. forest of smartphones.
The all-touchscreen Z10--seen as critical in helping to resurrect BlackBerry's standing in the market--went on sale
Friday at AT&T Inc. (T) stores and Best Buy Co. ( BBY ) outlets in the U.S. The launch failed to produce the crowds or the
buzz of rival smartphone launches, despite the Canadian company's largest-ever marketing push.
More crucially, AT&T does not appear to be highlighting the new Z10 phone or giving it prominent shelf space at its
At two AT&T stores in Manhattan, there were neither special signs or floor displays to highlight the Z10. Apple Inc.
( AAPL ), on the other hand, still had its own space on the wall prominently displaying three different iPhones in the
At an AT&T store in downtown San Francisco, when a customer asked to see the Z10, the store's representatives had to
retrieve it from the back. The device had not been put out on display at the store's opening because of difficulties
setting it up, a store employee said. The device was eventually installed on a display at a back corner of the store,
away from a large sign advertising the iPhone 5.
Representatives from AT&T and BlackBerry didn't immediately respond for comment. While the phone went on sale in
stores Friday, customers have been able to pre-order the device for more than week.
A Best Buy spokeswoman said its staff had been specially trained to tout the new BlackBerry and that RIM had invested
in additional training for staff.
"Based on early reports there has been a good level of interest in the Z10 at our stores, and we're excited to see how
the launch plays out over the next couple of weeks," the Best Buy spokeswoman said.
The Z10 has been available in more than 20 markets around the world since its Jan. 30 unveiling, including Canada and
the U.K., but the U.S. launch was delayed for nearly two months. RIM executives blamed more-rigorous testing processes
at U.S. carriers for the delay.
RIM is depending on the all-touchscreen Z10 and another phone--the Q10, which comes with a physical keyboard and is
set to launch in April or May--to earn back some of the smartphone market share it has lost over the past several years
to Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. (SSNHY, 005930.SE).
At the two AT&T stores in midtown Manhattan, fewer than 20 people arrived Friday morning to specifically check out the
new Z10, with most seeking to replace an older Blackberry device.
"I have some trepidation about going to the virtual keyboard," said Jonathan Bennett, 37, a real-estate investment
executive from Cedarhurst, N.Y. "I've been holding back from switching to an Android or an iPhone because I love the [
physical] keyboard." Android is Google Inc.'s (GOOG) operating system.
Mr. Bennett said he was upset that RIM staggered the release of the keyboard-equipped Q10, but he still bought a Z10.
"I have a get-out-of-jail-free card," he said, explaining that his company would let him swap it if needed. "I can
return it if I don't like it."
There also were other long-time BlackBerry fans eager to get their hands on the new device. Scott Kaylin, 49 years
old, said he has been using a BlackBerry device since its 1999 debut. With the Z10, he planned to combine the tasks he
does on his older BlackBerry, which is for work, with the Samsung Galaxy S3 that he uses personally.
The Huntington, N.Y., resident said his cracked Samsung handset can't handle his Brooklyn business' typical flood of
emails, which usually top 300 a day. "Finding emails on the Samsung is a disaster," he said.
A Samsung spokeswoman said that the company offers several options for sorting and searching through email. The
company's devices also support "multiple folders and subfolders, and also supports filters and rules," she said.
At the San Francisco store, Ken Tse was the sole customer waiting for a BlackBerry when it opened. The 41-year old
financial adviser said he preferred BlackBerry devices because of their look and feel.
"I like the features; it feels like a better phone," he said, adding that he has held onto a BlackBerry for work and
used an Android-powered phone for personal use.
Write to Drew FitzGerald at firstname.lastname@example.org, Ian Sherr at email@example.com, and Will Connors at
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