Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Best day ever for BlackBerry, but units sold still a mystery

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TORONTO -- BlackBerry says it is smashing its own sales records with the launch of its new smartphones, but just how many devices it has sold is still a secret.

The Waterloo, Ont.-based company issued an enthusiastic statement on Wednesday that said the BlackBerry Z10 had the "best day ever for the first day of a launch."

"In fact, it was more than 50 per cent better than any other launch day in our history in Canada," said president and CEO Thorsten Heins.

But the company declined to say how many units actually landed in customers' hands across the country.

A separate statement from carrier Rogers Communications says it activated "thousands" of BlackBerry Z10 on its first day, while some stores have temporarily run out of the devices.

A Rogers spokeswoman did not respond to calls seeking details on how many phones were stocked at the stores which sold out.

Determining whether the BlackBerry launch in Canada was a success out of the gate has proven difficult, though reviews for the device have been mostly favourable.

In the U.K., sales for the first week were "close to three times our best performance," BlackBerry said, though it would not disclose tallies for previous BlackBerry launches in the region.

Fellow carrier Bell has also reported early interest in the device has been solid. Pre-orders for the new BlackBerry broke records held by an earlier model of the smartphone, Bell said on Tuesday after the launch, but it also wouldn't say where the bar was set.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Walkley reflected on those previous BlackBerry launches as he weighed the comments from both the smartphone maker and its carriers.

"I don't remember lines out the doors," he said in an interview from Minneapolis.

"The smartphone market was a lot smaller back then. It's hard to put any context around it."

But Walkley, who has a "sell" rating on the BlackBerry stock with a US$9 price target, said he isn't expecting blockbuster numbers anywhere near millions of units.

"We're talking five- to ten-thousand units that have maybe sold so far," he estimated using his own anecdotal research, which involved calls to UK retailers.

The launch of the BlackBerry Z10 was the most hyped unveiling of a smartphone from the company, which almost guarantees it made a stronger sales debut than its predecessors. But official sales numbers for the devices could still be weeks away.

BlackBerry will report its fourth-quarter results on March 28.

 

-- The Canadian Press, with files from The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2013 B4

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