BlackBerry hopes to sway Canadians as new model hits store shelves
Published Tuesday, February 5, 2013 6:25AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 5, 2013 9:58PM EST
BlackBerry users had their chance to finally get their hands on the long-awaited BlackBerry 10 Tuesday as the company’s latest smartphone -- with a new operating system -- hit Canadian shelves.
CEO Thorsten Heins was in Toronto to celebrate the device launch, which was attended by a small number of customers who pre-ordered the BlackBerry Z10.
While the launch didn’t see massive lineups that have become synonymous with new Apple products, the model has reportedly seen a high number of pre-orders.
Heins told BNN on Tuesday that early sales in the United Kingdom and pre-registration results in Canada are encouraging.
"I don't have the firm number yet but we also see people migrating from other platforms back to BlackBerry. I think this is a very important snippet. We need to verify that data, but if we can achieve that I think we've achieved a lot."
BlackBerry shares were up slightly Tuesday, gaining 95 cents, or 6.43 per cent, to close trading at $15.94. It marked the second straight day BlackBerry shares saw a boost, after a bump of $1.98, or 15.22 per cent, on Monday.
Heins said the next generation of BlackBerry smartphones is already in the research and development phase, with more affordable devices set to be released later this year.
The new BB10 operating system and two smartphones -- the Z10 which has a touchpad, and the Q10, which has a physical keyboard -- were unveiled last week in splashy launch parties around the world. The Z10 is expected to be available in the U.S. in March, while the Q10's release is not expected until April.
When asked whether the next BlackBerry 10 phones are already on the drawing board, Heins told CTV's Canada AM, “it's further than that already."
"It's already in the R&D lab, so my software engineers are coding, my hardware engineers are working on it, that is already done. We're looking for the next generation already," Heins said. "We had a very exciting meeting with my folks yesterday and man, we're up for some really good innovation in the future."
The BlackBerry 10 launch has been described by some analysts as a make-or-break point for the company which has been outpaced in recent years by Apple and Android devices.
The company has faced criticism over delays in the development of its new operating system and phones, and most recently the staggered release for the two devices and their relatively high prices, all of which could be a barrier to BlackBerry's many customers in the developing world.
The Z10 is expected to retail at $149 with a three-year contract, with a much higher price tag for the unlocked version of the phone. Koodo is selling the device without a contract for $550.
Heins said the company intentionally targeted the upper tier of the market.
"We want to win back what we call the high end, the aspiration of customers, because you need to be successful in the high end to also appeal to what we call the mid-tier. And carriers and customers have told us we want you to be iconic again, to be relevant to that sector but also to others," Heins said.
He added that the company isn't abandoning customers who can't afford the new Z10 or Q10, but still want a BlackBerry product.
"Over time we will develop a portfolio of exciting BlackBerry 10 products that we will be putting into all those segments," Heins said. "Teams are working hard on it so we will be shipping some other exciting new stuff even this year."
With files from The Canadian Press