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Can the Z3 turn BlackBerry around?

  • 13 May 2014
  • Written by 
  • Published in Mobility

Struggling Canadian smartphone company BlackBerry may be in its death throes but that hasn't prevented it from attempting a comeback - today will see the launch of the Z3, a cut-price handset initially only available in Indonesia.

BlackBerry's Z3 handset, which will debut in Indonesia but is expected to be also released in emerging markets later this year, is the first new BlackBerry phone since chief executive John Chen took over from Thorsten Heins last year.

The phone is also the first to be produced after BlackBerry's partnership with Taiwanese firm Foxconn, also works with Apple but has faced criticism for its alleged sweatshop working conditions.

Apple and Samsung's recent success has spelt doom for BlackBerry, which has suffered huge financial losses and been forced to slash thousands of jobs, as it struggles to keep up with its shinier, trendier competitors.

The ailing smartphone maker unveiled the 5-inch Z3 smartphone at the Mobile World Congress earlier this year, and is likely to be priced in the range of $200.

Online orders for the new phone began on 28 April and according to retailers, pre-orders have been healthy. Indonesia is one of the last remaining markets where BlackBerry remains popular.

Analysts believe that it might be too late for the company, however. Sudev Bangah, a consultant at research firm IDC, told AFP that the company’s market share in Indonesia plunged from 43.3% in 2011 to about 13% in 2013. Bangah doesn’t believe the Z3 can change BlackBerry’s fate in Indonesia, and it remains even less likely that the phone will have an impact overseas.

The firm may soon exit the handset market altogether, with new CEO John Chen saying recently that if the company can't be profitable then it won't have a choice.

"If I cannot make money on handsets, I will not be in the handset business," BlackBerry chief John Chen said in an interview as we reported in April, adding that the time frame for such a decision was short.

Chen said while should be possible to make money off shipments of as few as 10 million a year, though in its most recent quarter, BlackBerry recognised hardware revenue on just 1.3 million smartphones.

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