BlackBerry Quiet on Results of Z10's First U.S. Weekend

The BlackBerry Z10 became available in the United States March 22. There were no long lines, but it may have cleared a low-set bar.

BlackBerry officials have been quiet regarding the first-weekend U.S. sales of the BlackBerry Z10.

After the smartphone launched abroad weeks ago, the company was quick to report happy news. In the United Kingdom, first-week sales were nearly three times the brand's best performance there to date, while in Canada, it had its best-ever launch date in the history of its sales on BlackBerry's home turf.

Following rather involved U.S. carrier processes that delayed the launch here of the first BlackBerry to run the new BlackBerry 10 platform, AT&T and Best Buy began selling the Z10 March 22.


BlackBerry offered no public statement and didn't respond to a request for one. Neither did AT&T.

Perhaps BlackBerry is waiting to make a big reveal, when it announces its quarterly earnings March 28. BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins, while insisting in interviews that sales have exceeded expectations, has refused to offer specifics ahead of the upcoming results announcement.

Analysts are feeling less shy.

William Blair analyst Anil Doradia wrote in a March 25 research note, "No fanfare, few promotions, no lines at the stores and unimpressive sales."

The New York Times reported that on the afternoon of March 22, there was no data about early sales, "nor were there any reports of extensive lines to buy the phones in the United States."

Seeking Alpha contributor Maltzberger wrote that on the day of the Z10's launch he visited seven AT&T stores and called three others, and between the 10 stores found out that a total of two Z10 smartphones had been sold.

But in a follow-up article March 25, Malzberger—identified only by that one name—wrote that on March 24, he called back two of the same stores and learned that each had sold out of their initial allotment of 10 phones. At another location, 12 of the 15 units the store had been given were sold out.

"In total, 67 percent of the initial allotment for these 10 stores had been sold in the past two days," Malzberger wrote. "That, my friends, is not too shabby."

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu, in a March 25 research note, wrote that the firm expects BlackBerry to meet or beat consensus, given the low bar set for it, and to announce quarterly revenue of $2.85 billion—a 32 percent year-over-year decline—and sales of 7 million BlackBerry smartphones, down 37 percent year over year.

Supply chain estimates for the Z10, Wu added, indicated that between "1 million and 1.5 million Z10 units likely shipped."

"Despite a decent start for BB10 and a large unit order [of 1 million devices] we believe was likely to a global distributor ... we remain concerned with sustainability of its momentum," he wrote. "So far, the feedback we have gotten indicate buyers are long-time loyalists, as opposed to new customers. It remains to be seen if BB10 can gain mainstream acceptance against Android and iOS."

The United States is a key market where BlackBerry, if it is to build itself back up to anything resembling its former glory, will need to effectively compete against the Apple iPhone and Android smartphones. Both have fed aggressively on BlackBerry's once-leading market share, which is now in the neighborhood of 3 percent globally.

Verizon Wireless will begin selling the Z10 March 28, and T-Mobile has promised to offer it later this month—likely after whatever it plans to announce at a March 26 event in New York City.

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