BlackBerry Z10 launch marks 10 years in Singapore

[UPDATED] Smartphone maker says Z10 device is available at all three local telcos, and will reach customers' hands starting March 7. Other markets in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, will see launches in March.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--BlackBerry has on Thursday unveiled its flagship smartphone powered by the BlackBerry 10 operating system (OS) in Singapore.

In a statement issued Thursday, the Canadian company noted the all-touch Z10 smartphone offers a "faster and smarter experience" that will continuously adapt to users' needs. The device is available at all three local operators--SingTel, M1, and StarHub--for pre-orders and pre-registration starting today, and customers can expect to receive them come March 7, it added.

Will BlackBerry's price for its "premium" Z10 entice Southeast Asian consumers? (Credit: BlackBerry)

Charles Dufourcq, country director for Singapore at BlackBerry, added the launch marks the 10-year milestone for the smartphone maker in the city-state. He said: "2013 is definitely a big year for BlackBerry in Singapore. Ten years have passed since BlackBerry smartphones were first officially introduced here. We expect BlackBerry fans will be extremely delighted with the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone powered by BlackBerry 10 OS."

The company has seen brisk sales in the first few launch markets. According to CEO Thorstein Heins, Canada witnessed the "best day ever for the first day launch" of a new BlackBerry smartphone, with 50 percent better sales in its launch day history.

In the United Kingdom, it saw close to three times its best performance for the first week of sales for a BlackBerry smartphone, Heins added.

High price for "premium" product

Asked for an update of the Z10's sales progress since Heins' remarks earlier this month, Hastings Singh, managing director for South Asia at BlackBerry, said the demand for the product has been "very high and strong" in the markets where the device has been launched. These include the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and Canada.

In an interview with ZDNet Asia after the launch here Thursday, Singh added while there had been some shortages in stock in the U.K. and Canada, these have been resolved and its supply chain remains "very competent".

In Asia, or Southeast Asia specifically, he said besides Singapore and Malaysia, which launched the phone on Wednesday, the other markets in the region can expect to see the Z10 launched in the month of March, although he declined to name specific shipping dates since these are dependent on carrier and regulatory approvals.

Indonesia, he added, will have the biggest launch event planned when it happens next month. This means having the most telcos, or all five 3G operators, supporting the launch as well as its channel partners, he said, adding the market continues to be the Canadian phonemaker's biggest in Asia-Pacific.

Reports from the country's news sites had earlier this week stated black market resellers were profiting by selling the Z10 at more than 40 percent above market price. While Singh said he cannot comment on the accuracy of these reports, he "wouldn't imagine it to be too far off the ballpark". He also clarified the first six markets that helped launched the Z10 back in January did not mean they had exclusive selling rights before other markets, but simply were the locations picked to hold the launch events. Indonesia was not part of the six markets. 

As for the recommended retail price (RRP) of the Z10 device, before carrier subsidy and inclusive of GST (goods and services tax), of S$918 (US$742.15) in Singapore, and whether such a price is prohibitive in other emerging markets, the executive clarified the price point varies on individual markets and the tax regimes. Malaysia's RRP for the Z10, for example, is 2,188 ringgit (US$705.89).

He was not able to share the exact pricing, or the range of prices, of the device in the other Southeast Asian markets before launch, but stressed the Z10 is a "premium" product and this dictates the stated price point.

By comparison, Sony Mobile Communications' latest Experia Z smartphone will retail at S$998 (US$806.82) without operator subsidies in Singapore, according to CNET Asia.

Singapore consumers will no longer need to subscribe to a dedicated BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) plan when getting a BlackBerry smartphone either. Dufourcq said during the launch the BlackBerry 10 operating system is architected "just like other mobile players" so the subscription plans will be consistent with operators' existing ones.

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