The BlackBerry faithful got some good news today, learning that AT&T will open business for pre-orders tomorrow, March 12th. Rumor has it that the wait time will be just 10 days, with devices hitting AT&T stores, and presumably pre-order customers’ mailboxes, on March 22nd. T-Mobile opened up pre-orders for business customers today, and Verizon should start its campaign any day now. Yet there is one big question remaining for BlackBerry at these carriers.
Competition is stiff in the mobile space, not only on handset quality but also on price. In many cases carriers race for the best subsidy. The one that shaves the largest amount off the retail price often wins the most customers. It would make sense, then, for these carriers to price the BlackBerry Z10 lower than its biggest competitors. Yet that appears to not be the case. In this morning’s FierceWireless article, Phil Goldstein notes prices of $199.99 and AT&T and Verizon, and a whopping $249.99 at T-Mobile.
At Verizon and AT&T, the pricing seems quite out of line. Customers walking into either of their stores will see the Z10, an unfamiliar phone from a tarnished brand, priced at the same level as the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S III. With the hype surrounding those phones, it’s hard to see a justification for spending the same amount of money on the ostensibly lesser phone.
We learned recently that the BlackBerry Z10 is selling fairly well abroad. Furthermore, it is realizing a lot of defectors from other platforms. That seemed unlikely to occur in the U.S. People here seem pretty set with their operating systems. Perhaps some would consider the BlackBerry if priced even $50 below the major competitors. But at the same price point it’s unlikely that they win many converts.
That’s not to say that the BlackBerry Z10 will do poorly overall. The sense I get is that the BlackBerry faithful is excited about this device. Most plan to get either it or the Q10, which will hit carriers in a month or two. So in terms of retaining existing customers, they’ll do fine. That would have been a much more attractive proposition even two years ago, but today it’s much less exciting. The new BlackBerry line could be less attractive still after Samsung announces the Galaxy S IV this week.