RIM's BlackBerry Torch opening sales so-so; Pondering price cuts, word-of-mouth

RIM's BlackBerry Torch opening sales so-so; Pondering price cuts, word-of-mouth

Summary: Research in Motion probably sold about 100,000 to 150,000 BlackBerry Torch devices, a sum that's solid but a bit underwhelming compared to an Apple iPhone or latest Droid launch.

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Research in Motion probably sold about 100,000 to 150,000 BlackBerry Torch devices, a sum that's solid but a bit underwhelming compared to an Apple iPhone or latest Droid launch.

Wall Street analysts in recent days have been handicapping Torch sales. The verdict: Torch sales were solid but underwhelming overall. The Torch is the device that's supposed to give RIM a kickstart, put the BlackBerry franchise in better position, and protect the smartphone maker's market share. In other words, the Torch launch was ok, but not good enough.

Wedbush analyst Scott Sutherland on Tuesday downgraded shares of RIM to neutral from outperform. Sutherland said:

We continue to believe that RIM’s strategic positioning in the enterprise, alignment with carriers, new products, and international expansion will allow the company to participate in the solid growth of the smartphone market. However, while the Torch launch was decent, we do not see it slowing the oncoming rush of Apple and Google long term, and see risks to its enterprise positioning.

Here's a roundup of what analyst are projecting:

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Sanjiv Wadhwani:

Combined with sales at Wal Mart, Radio Shack and Best Buy, we estimate opening weekend units sales were between 100K-150K devices. With the launch taking place in the first half of August, this quarter (August-ending) guidance of 11.6-12.1 million devices, ASPs of $300 or higher and revenues of $4.4-$4.6 billion could ultimately prove conservative (offset somewhat by issues in the Middle East). However, the device will ultimately have to sell in the market place side-by-side with Apple's iPhone. To sustain U.S. sell-through momentum into the November quarter, we believe the price of $199 on contract will have to fall, and large enterprise customers may gain some leverage with respect to pricing.

Wedbush's Sutherland:

Based on our initial and follow up checks at several AT&T stores, resellers, call centers, and industry contacts, we believe there was a reasonably good reception for Torch though found it modest in comparison to recent iPhone, Droid, and EVO launches. We estimate over the first few days, Torch was selling at the rate of 1-2 units/hour at AT&T stores, and somewhat slower at other resellers. Applying a rate of 1 unit/hour for AT&T owned stores and 2 units/day at partner retailers, and assuming contribution from online and call center sales, we estimate ~750K Torch units sell-through in FQ2, which gives us comfort with our 11.7 million unit estimate for FQ2 ending August 2010.

William Blair analyst Anil Doradla:

One key point that we consistently heard from the stores was that the initial response to the Torch was nowhere close to the launch of the iPhone 4. Although the Blackberry 6.0 is a marked improvement over BlackBerry’s current user interface, we believe the device and new OS will be viewed as another “me too” product in the crowded space of Smartphone operating systems. Similar to the launch of the Blackberry Bold last year, we expect the OS to provide a boost to RIM’s replacement rate, particularly from business customers, but we do not expect significant share gains at AT&T, much less the broader North American market.

The big point: RIM's Torch sales are roughly in line with the Bold, but the real key for the smartphone maker will be word-of-mouth and sustained sales---with or without price cuts. On this front, it's possible that RIM could benefit from word-of-mouth.

Although RIM failed to generate any Apple-ish buzz with the launch of the Torch, folks that have played with the device say it's not as bad as portrayed. In fact, expectations seem to be low enough for the Torch that many users will be pleasantly surprised.

TechRepublic's Jason Hiner has played with the Torch and reckoned that the device is enough to keep BlackBerry users in the fold. Frankly, RIM only has to keep its existing users happy and it'll be OK. RIM's challenge is to prevent defections to the iPhone and Android devices. Hiner wrote:

If I had gotten the BlackBerry Torch 9800 in my hands 12 months ago, I would have been dazzled by it. In fact, I probably would have made it my primary business device. However, that was before Android 2.0. It was before iOS 4. It was before the iPhone 4 and its impressive screen. It was before the Nexus One and the HTC EVO and the Samsung Galaxy S all raised the bar on Android devices. A lot has happened in the smartphone market in the past year.

Today, the Torch is pretty great, for a BlackBerry. It can rightly be called the best BlackBerry yet, but its best still doesn’t quite measure up to iPhone or Android devices, especially in the critical areas of Web browsing and third party apps. The Torch is the best messaging (email, texting, and IM) device on the market. And, it’s the best business smartphone for those companies that are still tied to BES for security and IT reasons.

So, in that sense, the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and the BlackBerry 6 OS should offer enough of a step forward to keep a lot of BlackBerry fans loyal to the platform.

In the end, RIM may not need a lot of razzle-dazzle with the Torch -- so these opening weekend tallies may not matter that much. RIM only has to keep BlackBerry customers in the fold.

Topics: Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, BlackBerry

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11 comments
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  • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Torch opening sales so-so; Pondering price cuts, word-of-mouth

    Lol.. I didn't even know that the Torch was launched in the US. BB needs to generate buzz...They need to learn this art from Apple..

    PS - I'm a BB & MSFT fan :)
    Rahul Mulchandani
    • buzz

      @Rahul Mulchandani
      you can't generate buzz in general. you can only add to it with clever marketing. it's not a marketing trick in itself, it is a real world phenomena. people actually have to be excited about your product, then you can add to the buzz with a carefully orchestrated launch (which is an art in itself).

      innovation=buzz, lame me too products, not so much.
      banned from zdnet
  • Should have called it the Blackberry KIN

    Business is waiting for WP7, sorry RIM...
    Johnny Vegas
  • Price cut in half at Amazon?

    Article on Barron's site:

    "The price of the Research In Motion (RIMM) BlackBerry Torch has been cut in half - to $99.99 - on Amazon.com (AMZN) and some other sites, less than a week after the new phone went on sale at $199.99"

    http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2010/08/17/research-in-motion-torch-price-cut-in-half-after-weak-launch/

    Not a good sign for BB, especially if those who paid the higher price want a refund.
    Ken_z
  • Absurd

    This is ridiculous....so unless you set a new all time high record for highest sales of any product then the launch is a 'failure'? Can you please present any evidence that RIM was anticipating iPhone sized numbers?

    100,000-150,000 in one weekend has got to be the biggest RIM launch of all time, yet it isn't good enough by WHAT standard exactly?

    Oh yeah, the same standard which says that unless Carrie Underwood's album outsells 'Thriller' it's a failure

    Give me a break. I'm sure RIM met their sales goals for the weekend.
    Doctor Demento
    • Haven't you heard of the new standard?

      @Doctor Demento
      Unless a new product actually drives an Apple product off of the market, that product is a failure. [i]The Torch wasn't an iPhone killer, thus it is a failure.[/i]
      NonZealot
  • AT&T play a role.

    Had it been on Verizon or Sprint or even T-Mobile it might have done better. AT&T has a bit of a black eye now due to network problems that prevent many from going (back?) to their network. For the enterprise and/or current BB owners (myself included), that simply makes it not an option. Just supposition, except for the iPhone crowd putting aside all the downsides (such as new data caps, etc) in their desire to own an iPhone, even with awesome service, I don't want a cap.

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
  • Time to update the article

    prices weren't slashed in half, that was the price amazon had from the first day.

    See gizmodo's update for info if needed.
    rtk
  • Great Insurance for your Torch

    I really like the phone. I also made sure that it was protected by getting an insurance for it. 1 great insurance for your torch is Ensquared Phone Insurance, they have 1yr and 2yr smrtphone products that will make you feel at ease with your new phone. Visit them at www.ensquared.com
    aino611
  • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Torch opening sales so-so; Pondering price cuts, word-of-mouth

    It's funny that the analysts didn't like the 150000 for the opening weekend of the Torch launch, when the iPhone sold 120000 and the Windows Phone 7 sold only 40000. What were the expectations?
    pnewhook7
  • RE: RIM's BlackBerry Torch opening sales so-so; Pondering price cuts, word-of-mouth

    Anyone knows how can I purchase BB Torch in bundles of 10 or 20??? brand new without a contract at a good price??
    RichRRF