New BlackBerry won't be released in US until March


The first device in the new crop of revamped BlackBerrys will be the Z10 _ pronounced "zee-10'' in the U.S. and "zed-10'' elsewhere. As RIM previously disclosed, it will have only a touch-screen keyboard, like Apple Inc.'s trend-setting iPhone and most phones running Android, including Samsung Electronic Co.'s popular Galaxy line. Although the Z10 will go on sale Thursday in the U.K. and next Tuesday in Canada, it won't be available in the U.S. until March.

The Q10 will follow and will have a physical keyboard, a feature that has kept BlackBerry users loyal over the years because it makes typing easier. RIM said the Q10 will start going on sale on some global carriers in April, but it couldn't say when U.S. carriers will have it.

Heins said U.S. carriers need more time to test the devices. All the major U.S. carriers plan to sell the new BlackBerrys. Verizon Wireless said the Z10 will be available for $200 with a two-year service agreement, in line with what other major smartphones cost. In Canada, it will cost about $150 with a three-year contract.

Frank Boulben, RIM's chief marketing officer, said some of the delay in the U.S. stems from specific testing requirements imposed by the Federal Communications Commission. There was a similar delay when the iPhone first came out, though subsequent models were released more quickly after their announcements.

The U.S. has been one market in which RIM has been particularly hurting, even as the company is doing well in many places overseas. According to research firm IDC, shipments of BlackBerry phones plummeted from 46 percent of the U.S. market in 2008 to 2 percent in 2012. The iPhone and Android now dominate.

BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis said the new phones' tardy arrival in the U.S. threatens to cause even more BlackBerry users to defect. By the time the Z10 goes on sale in the U.S., Gillis suspects many people will be waiting to see what Google plans to unveil in mid-May at an annual conference that usually includes new gadgets and an Android software update. Speculation of a new iPhone also may be building by then.

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