BlackBerry is still a long ways away from reclaiming its former glory. Its market share continues to fade. Its subscriber count continues to drop. Most analysts have concurred that the company’s first BlackBerry 10 Hail Mary, the BlackBerry Z10, is either falling below or just meeting sales expectations, with interest dipping over time. And given that other key flagships like the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 are just starting their assault on the mobile market, all signs point to the life being drained from the company formerly known as RIM.
But if recent estimations and CEO Thorsten Heins are to be believed, BlackBerry may have an ace in the hole. In an interview with Bloomberg, Heins remained optimistic that the keyboard-sporting BlackBerry Q10 will be a hit.
“We have very, very good first signs already after the launch in the U.K.,” he said. “This is going into the installed base of more than 70 million BlackBerry users, so we have quite some expectations. We expect several tens of million of units.”
Those “very, very good first signs” come courtesy of U.K. department store Selfridges and certain Carphone Warehouse outlets, which, according to Jefferies Group analyst Peter Misek, collectively saw high demand for the Q10 upon its limited launch over the weekend. Selfridges in particular claimed that the Q10 was its “fastest-ever selling consumer electronics product.”
Shares in BlackBerry have climbed in the wake of the apparent demand, rising just about 4 percent to $16.04 at the time of this writing. Stock in general has increased over the course of this year, as shareholders anticipate the company will reinvigorate its users with the new BlackBerry 10 offerings.
There are some caveats to all of this, though. Selfridges is a department store best known for selling high-end clothing instead of high-end smartphones, and even then its Q10 launch was limited to just a handful of stores. Other stores that normally sell phones in the U.K., meanwhile, are reporting that they still have Q10s in stock. And the launch as a whole is likely too small of a sample to accurately judge the Q10’s eventual success or failure.
But as Heins mentioned, BlackBerry still has a user base of more than 70 million subscribers, and the Q10 looks to be a device made for the BlackBerry faithful first and foremost. Whereas the Z10 saw BlackBerry step outside its comfort zone and into more iPhone-esque waters, the Q10 sees the company returning to and refining its roots. It’s a well-made QWERTY phone for productivity-oriented users — a good template for BlackBerry to follow if it wants to rally up its base.
Whether or not a device like the Q10 has enough mass appeal to help BlackBerry fully rise from the ashes remains to be seen, though. Early feedback on the phone has been positive, but not overwhelmingly so, and there’s a reason the mobile world has largely carried on just fine without keyboards over the past few years. BlackBerry 10 is improving, though it has a ways to go before it can stand on par with Android and iOS for general consumers. And the Q10’s hefty price tag of $249 with a contract will eliminate the growing number of budget smartphone buyers from even considering the phone in the first place.
But, for now at least, things are starting to look up for BlackBerry. The company has to be hoping that the excitement from its current users will create more “CrackBerry” addicts, but the fact that BlackBerry has managed to keep all those addicts happy is a small victory in itself. They haven’t given up yet.
Is BlackBerry doomed? In the long run, perhaps. But has it scrapped enough to keep its longstanding legacy alive? If these early returns are any indication, it appears so.