BlackBerry U.S. Launch Disappoints: Where Are Ads?

BlackBerry Z10's first weekend of sales in the U.S. was weak. The good news: The device is easy for owners to repair, says iFixit.
BlackBerry 10: Visual Tour Of Smartphones, OS
BlackBerry 10: Visual Tour Of Smartphones, OS
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The BlackBerry Z10 went on sale in the U.S. on March 22. After checking in with AT&T, Best Buy and RadioShack stores over the weekend, Goldman Sachs cut its rating of BlackBerry stock from "buy" to "neutral." The problem, says Goldman, is that there was very little advertising for the Z10 anywhere.

"Our retail checks at over 20 store locations since March 22 ... revealed a surprising lack of marketing support and poor positioning of the product," Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski said in a note to clients on Monday. "As a result, despite the product itself being relatively well received by sales associates and online reviews, sell-through at most locations was less than 10 per day."

On Sunday, I made a trip to my local mall, which has several corporate-owned AT&T stores, a Best Buy (and separate Best Buy Mobile) and a RadioShack outlet. I found the Z10 on display and available in all three locations, but there was no signage, billboards, placards or other marketing collateral pointing to it. The Z10 was there, but certainly not advertised in any noticeable way. Meanwhile, the Apple iPhone 5 had huge window advertisements on display at the AT&T and RadioShack stores.

[ Can Blackberry stage a comeback with its new devices? Many analysts are doubtful. Read Gartner Skeptical On Blackberry Comeback. ]

This is exactly what concerns Goldman Sachs. Despite the importance of this launch for BlackBerry, none of the entities selling it ponied up any cash to let people know it was there.

The Z10 will be available on March 27 from T-Mobile USA, and on March 28 from Verizon Wireless. Each carrier will offer the Z10 through their own retail shops, as well as with Best Buy (and RadioShack for Verizon). It will be interesting to see if T-Mobile or Verizon puts a little more effort into the Z10's launch.

Initial sales of the Z10 aside, there is some good news about the device. iFixit has taken the device apart screw-by-screw and rates the device highly for do-it-yourselfers.

"We heard that BlackBerry loyalists were hesitant to make the leap to a button-less smartphone with a drastically shorter battery life," said Miroslav Djuric, chief information architect at iFixit. "But with an ultra-responsive touchscreen and easily swappable battery, the Z10 will play Angry Birds all the way to Taiwan, and still bust an E.T. and phone home."

According to iFixit, only a couple of Torx screwdrivers and several other tools are needed to pull the Z10 apart. What surprised iFixit the most was the lack of adhesive holding the motherboard in place. Several Torx screws are all that locks it down. iFixit said the major components, such as the motherboard, are easy to remove, but things become a bit more difficult once you reach some of the smaller components (headphone jack and camera) due to glue.

The Z10's components come from a wide array of suppliers. Samsung is responsible for both the 16 GB NAND flash memory and the 2 GB DDR2 SDRAM modules. Qualcomm contributed the Snapdragon S4 processor, in addition to the power management interface and multi-band RF receiver. Texas instruments, however, contributed the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and FM radios. Other parts were provided by Avago, STMicroelectronics and TriQuint.

"The BlackBerry Z10 is proof that smartphones can be thin, easily repairable, and have replaceable batteries," concluded iFixit. "All these traits yield an 8 out of 10 repairability score, something we haven't seen in a smartphone for a while."

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