BlackBerry unveils budget handset, looks towards revival in EMs

May 14 2014, 21:19 IST
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SummaryBlackBerry launched a low-cost touchscreen device in Jakarta, the Z3, as the embattled smartphone

BlackBerry launched a low-cost touchscreen device in Jakarta, the Z3, as the embattled smartphone maker looks to revive sales in emerging markets like Indonesia where its once-fervent following has shrivelled.

The handset, unveiled at a glitzy launch event in the Indonesian capital on Tuesday, is the first in a line of devices being made with FIH Mobile, a unit of the giant Taiwanese Foxconn Technology Group best known for assembling gadgets like iPhones and iPads for Apple.

The success of the handset retailing for less than $200 could well decide the outcome of both BlackBerry’s tie-up with the contract manufacturing giant and its own future in smartphones. The Z3 Jakarta Edition will hit store shelves on May 15.

“If this device allows them to grow again, even if it’s just small, steady growth, that’s a success in itself. That says there is still room for BlackBerry in Indonesia,” said Ryan Lai, market analyst at consultancy IDC.

The Z3 is the first phone to be launched by BlackBerry since new chief executive John Chen took the helm late last year. After Indonesia it will be gradually introduced in six other countries including the Philippines, India, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry hopes that the device and others to follow will help it claw back some of the collapse in its market share, ceded to Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s line of Galaxy devices powered by Google’s Android operating system.

“If the market doesn’t receive this product well, then we definitely have some negative issues to deal with,” Chen said at the launch at Jakarta’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. BlackBerry said it doesn’t have an official sales target for the device, but Chen said he expects to sell millions of Z3 handsets around the world, without disclosing further details.

Just two years ago, the Canadian firm had a 40% share of the Indonesian market, shipping more than 600,000 handsets per quarter in a country once known as “BlackBerry Nation”.

But the launch of the premium, high-priced BlackBerry 10 last year failed to attract buyers in a country where nearly 40% of the population live on about $2 a day. The company’s market share has slumped to just 4%.

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