A funny thing happened last week after BlackBerry's annual general meeting. The news and outlook shared at the meeting weren't of the brightest nature, and the troubled smartphone maker made it clear the company has a long way to go to dig itself out of an early grave. BlackBerry clearly wanted the media to talk about something other than its weak smartphone sales and shaky financials.
Lo and behold, pictures, videos and spec sheets of the unannounced BlackBerry A10 smartphone popped up everywhere. BGR.com was the first to publish a picture of the A10. It is a slab smartphone that looks a lot like the Z10, only it is bigger. The picture was followed by a short video tour of the device (since removed) that more or less confirmed what the device looks like and some of its features.
On Tuesday, a full A10 spec sheet appeared online, and it tells us almost the entire story of this phantom BlackBerry smartphone. The smartphone will boast a 5-inch 1280 x 720p AMOLED screen, which improves upon the Z10's display by 0.8 inches. It will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with each core clocked at 1.7 GHz and accompanied by 2 GB of RAM. Other features include support for HSPA+, LTE and CDMA wireless networks, in addition to NFC, Bluetooth and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. It sports microUSB and microHDMI ports, and supports microSD memory cards. It will have an 8-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. The A10 will ship with BlackBerry OS 10.2.
What was that you said about BlackBerry's financials? I can hardly remember anymore.
[ Want to know more about how BlackBerry is trying to soothe anxious investors? See BlackBerry Woes Lead To Job Cuts. ]
BlackBerry may not confirm the A10 until it is ready to release the device closer to the holiday shopping season, but it is doing its best to build buzz (or build a distraction?) long in advance of the device's debut.
One bit of news BlackBerry cannot escape is that of the Z10. The Z10 has been in the market now for a hair longer than five months. It debuted in the U.S. the first week of February. The device cost $199 when purchased brand new with a two-year carrier contract. That's the average cost of a new smartphone. Recently, however, U.S. carriers have dropped the price of the Z10 to as low as $49.99 with a new contract. The Wall Street Journal says the price drop is due to weaker-than-expected sales of the device. BlackBerry recently noted that it sold only 2.7 million BlackBerry 10 devices (about 1 million fewer than analysts expected), but the company didn't say how many were Z10s and how many were Q10s.
Based on this info, it is easy to conclude that the Z10 isn't the comeback device BlackBerry thought it might be. At the same time, it is worth pointing out that devices are often discounted several months into their product lifecycle. This is exactly the type of spin BlackBerry put on the Z10's price drop.
"[Price drops are] part of lifecycle management to tier the pricing for current devices to make room for the next ones," said a BlackBerry spokesperson to the Journal. "This is just one element of our marketing strategy that will ensure we remain aggressive in a very competitive market landscape." Nearly six months after its U.S. debut, it should not be considered unusual that carriers are dropping the price of the Z10, though a drop from $199 to $99 would probably make people feel better.
BlackBerry can perhaps take solace in the fact that the Z10 isn't the disaster that the HTC First was. The First went on sale in mid April with a $99 price tag, and AT&T cut it to $0.99 within several weeks.