BlackBerry Z3 'Jakarta' Is a Small but Noteworthy Sales Success

NEWS ANALYSIS: The Z3, BlackBerry's first new phone under Chen, appears to be selling well. Which is a small but important step forward.

BlackBerry, a company in desperate need of a smartphone win, says its newest device sold out on the first day of its, albeit limited, launch.

The BlackBerry Z3, code-named "Jakarta," was designed specifically for Indonesia, a developing market but a BlackBerry stronghold. It's the first smartphone BlackBerry has released since John Chen became CEO in November and the first BlackBerry smartphone to be designed by Foxconn, as part of a new relationship BlackBerry announced in December with the China-based electronics manufacturer.

"Indonesian consumers lined up at stores around Jakarta on Friday to buy our new Z3 smartphone, which sold out on its first day of availability in the Indonesian capital," blogged BlackBerry's Eric Lai. Lai also posted photos of crowds and consumers in a snaking line in a high-end mall in Jakarta. The lines were present again the following day.

The aggressively rectangular Z3 retails, importantly, for approximately $200 without a subsidy, enabling it to compete with any number of Android-running smartphones available in the region. It's 3G enabled, runs BlackBerry 10.2.1 and has a 5-inch touch-screen with a resolution of 960 by 540, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, a 5-megapixel rear camera, a 1.1-megapixel camera up-front and a non-removable (unusual for BlackBerry) but "long-lasting" battery, according to the company.

BlackBerry claims the Z3 also offers "the best Bahasa typing experience on a touch-screen," referring to the official language of Indonesia, and features like BlackBerry's Timeshift camera, Story maker and Docs to Go are all included.

Early reviews have been positive. N4BB wrote that it "performs like a high-end device," the Economic Times said it "embodies" BlackBerry 10 and offers "exceptional features and reliable communications," while CrackBerry called it "low end but not low performance."

Chen has said that after debuting in its namesake market, the phone will gradually head for other regions.

"One of BlackBerry's strongest markets is Indonesia, so it was to be expected that any new devices would be well-received," Jack Gold, principal analyst with J. Gold Associates told eWEEK.

But even given that, Gold added, the achievement is still very important "in that Jakarta both signals that BlackBerry is not dead as a platform, when it offers attractive products, and that Foxconn can deliver on the promise made to BlackBerry, that it will build compelling products and deliver them at a profit."

BlackBerry's deal with Foxconn entails the latter designing phones for developing markets (BlackBerry's designers in North America will focus on smartphones for enterprises), as well as handling BlackBerry's device inventory and the logistics of its supply chain. Announcing the deal during BlackBerry's fiscal 2014 third-quarter earnings call, Chen said that the deal relieved BlackBerry of its "biggest chokehold."

Gold added that it will be important to see if BlackBerry's "positive momentum can carry forward to other and possibly higher-end devices."

Under Chen, BlackBerry has been reorganized to focus on four key areas: enterprise mobility management, cross-platform messaging, embedded systems and handsets. Later this year it will introduce the BlackBerry Classic, a smartphone intended to appeal to longtime BlackBerry users who favor a dedicated keyboard. More than the Z3, the Classic should indicate the health—if not the pulse—of BlackBerry's larger handset market.

Still, the Z3's success is noteworthy.

"We're very pleased with the Z3," John Sims, the head of BlackBerry's enterprise division, told eWEEK during a May 13 call.

The Z3 is "indirectly focused on a long-term strategy around the enterprise," Sims explained, "because we see very strong emerging economies in these countries that the Z3 will be targeted at, and strong emerging middle classes, which we want to be BlackBerry users down the road."

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