BlackBerry's newest keyboard-equipped smartphone, the Q10, launched in Canada Wednesday.
The phone targets BlackBerry's traditional client base of business people who have a strong attachment to a physical keyboard — something that was missing in the touch-screen BlackBerry Z10 that launched earlier this year and uses the same new operating system as the Q10.
"Look, between arthritis and a general lack of co-ordination brought on by a decaying amount of gray matter, we can't figure out how to use a virtual keyboard," said Brendan Caldwell, the 42-year-old CEO of Caldwell Investment Management, speaking on behalf of many "older" people. "That's just how it goes."
Elias Makos, a technology journalist and analyst, said the Q10 is a good short-term solution to satisfy the loyal customers among its 70 million users who are devoted to the physical keyboard. However, he says that group of keyboard lovers isn't growing and will only continue to get smaller.
Mark Sue, managing director and technical analyst with the Royal Bank of Canada, said BlackBerry needs to do more than satisfy its existing customers.
'It's really about gaining new subscribers'
"Its' really about gaining new subscribers," he said. "It's really about driving a broad base of products across a broad base of demographics, across a broad base of regions."
Sue predicts BlackBerry will sell 11 million smartphones this year – enough to boost its stock to about $18 a share. That's far below the $150 a share it hit five years ago, but almost triple its share price last September.
BlackBerry posted a surprise profit of $98 million US or 18 cents per share for the quarter that ended March 2. It had lost $125 million US in the same quarter last year.
The company announced that it had shipped about one million smartphones on its new BlackBerry 10 operating system in that period. About 55 per cent of its sales were to people who had migrated from other smartphones, CEO Thorsten Heins reported. However, the company also reported that its subscriber base had dropped to 76 million from 79 million after growing until the third quarter.
The Q10 is being offered by major cellphone carriers at around $200 with a three-year contract and $650 to $700 with a monthly plan. BlackBerry said Tuesday that the phone would hit stores in the Greater Toronto Area first on Wednesday, with the rest of Canada getting the phone later in the week. However, Telus said it shipped the phones out to most of its stores across the country Wednesday morning.
The Q10 already launched this past weekend in the U.K., where BlackBerry said sales exceeded expectations.