Sprint will not sell flagship BlackBerry Z10 smartphone

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) will not sell the BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) Z10, the company's flagship, touchscreen BlackBerry 10 smartphone, a move that makes Sprint the only Tier 1 U.S. carrier that will not carry the device. Sprint has committed to selling the BlackBerry Q10, which runs BB10 and has a Qwerty keyboard.

BlackBerry Z10 Sprint

BlackBerry Z10

"We aren't saying there's anything different about our customers," Sprint spokesman Mark Elliott told Bloomberg. "We think our customers will be happy with the qwerty keyboard and touch screen on the Q10."

The confirmation from Sprint is not entirely surprising; the carrier did not mention the Z10 at all when BlackBerry formally unveiled the new platform Jan. 30 and other carriers voiced their support for the new phones. Still, it is a blow for BlackBerry, which needs all the carrier support it can get to gain traction in the market and stake a claim to being a strong third smartphone player behind Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS.

Sprint has said it will launch the Q10 later this year but has not given a launch date or a price, and BlackBerry has not formally said when it will release the Q10 in the U.S. market. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) has indicated it will sell the Z10 and Q10 but did not give prices or release dates. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) has said it will launch the Z10 for $199.99 with a two-year contract, but did not give a release date. T-Mobile USA has said it will sell the Z10 but has not provided details.

BlackBerry is seeing one-third of new BlackBerry 10 device sales coming from customers who are switching to the platform from other smartphone operating systems, a higher figure than the company had anticipated, according to Rick Costanzo, Blackberry's executive vice president of global sales.

BlackBerry started selling the Z10 in the United Kingdom a little more than a month ago and has since expanded sales to around 50 markets. The company has said it is particularly encouraged by  early sales in the United Kingdom and Canada.

One of BlackBerry's larger markets--and its largest Asian market--is Indonesia, where BlackBerry will face a major test. The Z10, which will be available in Indonesia starting March 15 and will come preloaded with locally developed applications, will sell for around $721, well above the market average. Costanzo told FierceWireless last week at the Mobile World Congress trade show that the company is confident it can get customers in emerging markets of migrate to the BB10 platform. BlackBerry is pouring a great deal of money into its marketing campaign for BB10 in Indonesia.

According to statistics cited by the Wall Street Journal, research firm Canalys found that  BlackBerry's market share in Indonesia fell to 42 percent in 2012 from 67 percent in 2011, while Samsung Electronics more than doubled its share to 48 percent from 23 percent in 2011, in terms of new handsets sold.

Overall, according to Gartner, BlackBerry captured 3.5 percent of the global smartphone market in the fourth quarter, down from 8.8 percent in the year-ago period. Similarly, research firm comScore found that BlackBerry captured 6.4 percent of the U.S. market in December 2012, down from 8.4 percent in September 2012.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this AllThingsD article

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