RIM sold an estimated 150,000 BlackBerry Torch 9800 smartphones during its first weekend in release, according to two analysts. If that number holds, it could represent a setback in RIM's battle against Google Android and the Apple iPhone for market share.
If Research In Motion hoped its BlackBerry Torch 9800 would prove an instant
success, new sales estimates may leave the company disappointed: according to
analysts at RBC Capital Markets and Stifel
Nicolaus, the new smartphone sold only 150,000 devices over the weekend.
to the Wall Street Journal
, the analysts arrived at that estimate after
conducting retail spot-checks. The BlackBerry Torch 9800-RIM's first smartphone
to feature both a sliding QWERTY keyboard and capacitive touch-screen-originally
went on sale Aug. 12.
currently offers the Torch for $99.99
, or half its original asking price of
$199, with a two-year contract through AT&T. But the online retailer is
also known for radically slashing smartphone prices, so the sale does not necessarily
indicate a long-term loss of faith in the device, despite
lukewarm early reviews
here for more information on the BlackBerry Torch 9800.
RIM needs the Torch to be a hit on two fronts: with its traditional business
audience, which has become more amenable to alternates such as the Apple iPhone
and Google Android, and consumers, who represent a largely untapped market for
the BlackBerry brand. The Torch had been tasked with appealing to both groups
through its combination of businessperson-friendly features and multimedia
In the wake of a soft sales weekend, though, some analysts are drawing
comparisons to another sliding smartphone that started with a lot of hype, and
ended up falling flat: the Palm Pre.
"RIM is beginning to repeat many of the Palm mistakes, one of them being
hard-to-follow advertising campaigns," Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the
Enderle Group, wrote in an Aug. 17 email to eWEEK. "And
the brand was clouded by the Saudi Arabia and Indian News that the security in
it was being compromised
In essence, Enderle added, "they didn't execute well and they had to
overcome a lot of negative news at the same time." The combination "damaged
their launch significantly as a result."
The Torch includes RIM's new BlackBerry 6 operating system, which emphasizes
consumer-friendly features such as unified social-networking feeds, wireless
synching with DRM-free (Digital Rights Management-free) music on a user's PC,
and a new Universal Search application that allows users to scan both their
device and Web sites such as YouTube. Such an update, many analysts felt, was
necessary if RIM wanted to compete against the rapidly evolving Android
platform, as well as Apple's iOS4.
"In order to create a bulwark against incursions in their market from Apple
and Google, RIM needs to expand its footprint," Charles King, an analyst with
Pund-IT Research, told eWEEK in an Aug. 3 interview. "RIM became the device of
choice in the business market because they represented the cutting edge of that
market five, six, seven years ago."
Of course, businesses also tend to adopt new devices at a slower rate than do
consumers. Given that, RIM could see a slow-and-steady rate of sales for the
Torch, as more enterprises bring the device into the technological fold.
Consumer adoption may also proceed at a respectable pace, allowing RIM to either
maintain or build market-share in that area.
But considering that Google Android devices are selling at a reported rate
of 200,000 per day, and Apple's iPhone 4 sold nearly 1.7 million units during
its first weekend of release, RIM now faces something of an uphill battle.