Waterloo, Ont.-based BlackBerry today launched a new low-cost touchscreen smartphone specifically for Indonesian customers — the BlackBerry Z3, Jakarta edition.
It's a device that the smartphone maker hopes will appeal to price-conscious consumers in emerging markets like Indonesia, where the embattled company still has a presence.
The handset, unveiled at a glitzy launch event in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, is the first in a line of devices being made with FIH Mobile Ltd, a unit of the giant Taiwanese Foxconn Technology Group best known for assembling gadgets like iPhones and iPads for Apple Inc.
The Z3 that will hit Indonesian markets this Thursday is the first phone to be launched by BlackBerry since John Chen took over as new chief executive late last year. It is initially being launched in Indonesia, but will be gradually be introduced to other markets.
"As everybody knows, Indonesia is a huge market for us, and one of the biggest I was told, which I agreed. And, I hope that, the more important statement is that, we are definitely in a handset business, we want to be very competitive in the handset business. And with our relationship with the Foxconn, we are not only able to offer this, but offer in a very timely manner," Chen said at the launch ceremony.
The phone features a nearly 13-cm display, and users can type in Bahasa, the Indonesian language, according to a press release from BlackBerry.
The Z3 also comes with special BlackBerry Messenger Stickers created by an Indonesian illustrator that feature the Punakawan, famous characters in Indonesian shadow theatre who are portrayed as clown servants to the hero of the play.
The Z3 will retail for the equivalent of about $208 Cdn when it hits shelves on Thursday.
A limited-edition model of the Z3 will include the engraving "Jakarta" on the back of the phone.
Market share in Indonesia slumps
Just two years ago, the firm had a 40 per cent share of the Indonesian market, shipping more than 600,000 handsets per quarter in a country once known as "BlackBerry Nation."
But the launch of the premium, high-priced BlackBerry 10 last year failed to attract buyers in a country where nearly 40 per cent of its residents live on about $2 each a day.
The company's market share has slumped to just four per cent, with shipments of around 100,000 devices in the first quarter this year, according to consultancy firm IDC.
The Z3 is being launched at a price point to address one of the big turnoffs for consumers in emerging markets — BlackBerry 10 devices being too pricey.
Chen hopes that the Z3 and other devices to follow will spark a change in the company's fortunes.
"And you know, obviously in emerging markets, the consumer base is very important, and we think we have the ability to participate and compete. So this has nothing to do with our enterprise focus, that is definitely our focus in regardless. But we are also interested in penetrating the consumer market around the world, especially the developing countries."
BlackBerry security system attracts users
Indonesia is now dominated by Samsung, which sells about one of every three smartphones in Southeast Asia's largest economy. However, the country is still a promising land for BlackBerry.
"This is a central business district, so demand for BlackBerry is high," said Dytto, a 25-year-old mobile phone vendor who goes by one name. "Although there is demand for Android and iPhone in the market, but people are still enthusiastic about BlackBerry."
Some users lauded BlackBerry's security system.
"BlackBerry can keep all my data safe, and if I reinstall the system, all the data will be secure. I don't like Android system because it cannot ensure the safety of private data," said 35-year-old Wawan.
Later this year, BlackBerry will launch a new touchscreen device dubbed the BlackBerry Classic in partnership with Foxconn. The handset will see a return of the command keys that include Menu, Back, Send and End buttons, along with a trackpad.
BlackBerry hopes the move will address the concerns of users who have found their new devices hard to navigate.