MetroPCS, Leap and other Tier 2 U.S. carriers lukewarm on BlackBerry 10

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Tier 2 U.S. carriers said they are uncommitted as of now to Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry 10 platform.

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U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM) spokesman Steve Carlson said the carrier does not "have plans to offer those devices but we are still in discussions with RIM." MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS) spokesman Drew Crowell told FierceWireless that the flat-rate carrier had nothing to announce on its support for BlackBerry 10. "As with any OEM/device, we are looking at them and will evaluate if they are a fit for our customers and the company," he said.

Greg Lund, spokesman for Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), said the company did not have a comment on BB10. C Spire Wireless spokesman Dave Miller also said the company did not have a comment as of yet on whether it would support BlackBerry 10.

All four Tier 1 U.S. carriers will support RIM's new BlackBerry 10. However, the fact that BlackBerry 10 phones won't go on sale in the U.S. until mid-March soured investors on RIM's BB10 launch event yesterday, sending the company's shares down 12 percent after the event.

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) said it will launch the Z10 for $199.99 with a two-year contract, but did not give a release date. Verizon also said it will launch the Q10, but did not give a price or release date. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) said it will launch the Q10 later this year but it did not give availability or a price. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) said it will sell the Z10 and Q10 but did not give prices or release dates. T-Mobile USA said it will sell the Z10 but didn't provide details. Heins said at a press conference Wednesday that the Q10 should be available in the U.S. in April.

"The testing process with the U.S for those carriers is a rather lengthy one," Heins said in explaining the U.S. delay. He said the company is "working with carriers to push that forward."

A lack of support from the nation's Tier 2 carriers is not entirely unexpected. RIM, which is renaming itself BlackBerry and will start trading in New York under the "BBRY" ticker starting Monday, has generally enjoyed stronger relationships in the recent past with the larger carriers.

Further, the nation's Tier 2 carriers rarely are among the first to support major device launches. For example, C Spire began selling Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone in late 2011 and Cricket followed in mid-2012. The iPhone launched in 2007.

The Tier 2 carriers are also lukewarm in their support for Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone, which is also trying to gain ground as the nation's third main smartphone platform. U.S. Cellular, for example, last fall launched its first Windows Phone, the ZTE Render, but other Tier 2 carriers have yet to follow suit.

In other BlackBerry news, the Wall Street Journal reported that RIM is working on its own cloud storage system, similar to Apple's iCloud and Google's Drive. In the meantime, BlackBerry 10 is using third-party cloud app Box.

RIM's Heins also touched on BlackBerry's tablet strategy. He said all existing PlayBook tablets will be upgraded to BB10--but he was more circumspect about the company's future tablet plans. "The way we look at tablets right now is it is difficult on a cost to profits standpoint," Heins said, "so we are still exploring various use cases for it."

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article
- see this Guardian article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this The Verge article

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