BlackBerry Shares Pop as Z10 Launch Nears

Andrew Klips |

U.S. customers of AT&T Inc. (T) will be able to get their hands on the new Z10 smartphone by BlackBerry Inc. (BBRY) as the nation’s second-largest wireless provider will begin taking pre-orders for the flagship device on Tuesday ahead of the March 22 launch date. AT&T will offer the phone for $199 with a two-year contract. The smartphone is the first to feature BlackBerry’s new BB10 operating system.

T-Mobile USA announced last week that it would begin taking orders from its U.S. business customers on March 11. Verizon Communications (VZ), the U.S.’s largest wireless provider, has yet to disclose a sale date, although it has said sometime in mid-March.

The Z10 is already available in 21 other countries around the world, including Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, but investors will be closely watching how the product sells in the U.S., which could be a last attempt for BlackBerry, formerly known as Research in Motion, to turn its business around.

BlackBerry has attributed the delay to commercialize the Z10 in the States to longer review processes by American carriers.

The device went on sale in the United Kingdom on January 31 and has so far been the topic of mixed reviews as analysts speculate about volume of sales. Last week, BlackBerry chief executive Thorsten Heins said that he is “very encouraged” by the feedback so far on the Z10 since its international launch. No sales figures were disclosed, however as the company prepares for its March 28 release of fourth-quarter results.

Heins also said that sales in emerging markets have exceeded expectations and that they were nearly sold out of phones in India in only two days.

Once a beast in the industry, BlackBerry has faded far back in capturing market share to Apple, Inc.’s (AAPL) iPhone and Samsung’ Galaxy franchise, which is powered by Google, Inc.’s (GOOG) Android operating system. In the past two weeks, Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry has reported some new contracts in the government sector that it once dominated. The German government placed orders for 5,000 phones and a mental health organization in the UK placed an order for 1,000 units. The order from ministries and agencies in Germany was part of a broader 10,000-phone order that was split with Samsung.

BlackBerry and Samsung will be squaring off indirectly as Samsung is unveiling the latest iteration of its Galaxy S phone line on Thursday. No release date is scheduled yet for the new Galaxy smartphone, but it will give potential consumers the option of going with the new Z10 or waiting it out for the Samsung phone which has been steadily gobbling up market share from competitors.

Shares of BlackBerry are pushing ahead with the AT&T this morning, trading up by about 10 percent at $14.40 approaching the noon hour.

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