BlackBerry hoped that its keyboard-equipped smartphone, the Q10, would be a huge hit with mobile professionals and consumers alike. After all, BlackBerry practically owned the market for QWERTY devices, and the Q10 was its get-back-in-the-game hero. But that's not how it worked out. According to carrier executives and U.S. wireless store representatives, sales of the Q10 have been abysmal.
Wireless Zone, a retailer that sells Verizon Wireless products, said that the handful of Q10s it sold were returned by the customers, according to The Wall Street Journal. "We saw virtually no demand for the Q10 and eventually returned most to our equipment vendor," said Chris Jourdan, owner and operator of 16 Wireless Zone stores located in the Midwest.
The phone didn't sell well in BlackBerry's home market of Canada either. "I think we'd all say that the Q10, the one we all thought was going to be the savior, just hit the ground and died," said an unnamed executive at a Canadian carrier to the Journal. "It didn't drive the numbers that anybody expected."
[ What led to the downfall of the former mobile titan? See BlackBerry's Collapse: 5 Key Mistakes. ]
Used phone dealers say the Q10's arrival didn't lead to the usual flood of trade-ins. "We thought there would be a pocket of diehard BlackBerry enthusiasts waiting to upgrade, but it seems they have already moved on," said Jeff Trachsel, chief marketing officer at NextWorth.
The Q10 arrived in U.S. carrier stores, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless, earlier this year. It is just reaching Sprint on August 30. Sprint is bullish that the device will sell well. According to a Sprint spokesperson, its customers are seeking QWERTY-equipped devices, so it believes there is demand for the Q10. Further, the Q10 only recently won the clearance it needs to be deployed by the U.S. government. Large organizations don't adopt new gear immediately and may still be going through the process of making bulk purchases.
BlackBerry doesn't break down its handset sales beyond providing some basic figures. The company sold more than 6 million handsets during its most recent quarter, but only 2.7 million of them were the newer BlackBerry 10 handsets, including the Q10 and the all-touch Z10. In comparison, Apple sold 32.1 million iPhones during its most recent quarter and Samsung sold about 74 million smartphones. BlackBerry's presence in the market has dropped into the single digits, and it is no longer considered a contender with top-tier smartphones.
Earlier this month, BlackBerry announced that it is weighing strategic options, which is often parlance for "we give up." The company is exploring a sale of the company, whether in pieces or as a whole. It is also looking at partnerships and other ways in which it can recoup. It may already be too late.
The company made plenty of critical errors leading up to the debut of BlackBerry 10 earlier this year. Had the company been more responsive to the changing market conditions several years ago, it might have had a chance.
Industry pundits have said for years that the mobile ecosystem can't support four major smartphone operating systems. With Android and iOS firmly entrenched and Windows Phone making a solid play for the third spot, BlackBerry appears to be the one without a seat at the table.