It’s approaching one month since
RIM BlackBerry launched the BlackBerry 10 platform, and revealed the touch screen Z10 and keyboard-sporting Q10 devices. Now, finally, eager BlackBerry fans in Southeast Asia — there are plenty of them — have news of the first confirmed launch dates.
BlackBerry has confirmed that the Z10 will go on sale in Singapore on March 7 and in Malaysia on March 9, but there are no confirmed dates yet for Indonesia and Thailand — two of its strongest countries — nor for the colossal 1 billion-plus market of China. An executive told ZDNet Asia that other launches in Southeast Asia will happen later next month, though exact dates are subject to carrier approvals.
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The device will launch with all three operators in Singapore — SingTel, M1, and StarHub — while Maxis will enjoy a 6-week or so exclusive in Malaysia before its rivals begin offering the phone. Pre-orders in both countries opened today (Thursday), and it will be interesting to observe the response.
India has pipped Southeast Asia to the post, and the Z10 will go on sale in the country on February 25 — making it the first market in Asia to get a BlackBerry 10 launch.
On its further plans for Asia, a representative from the Canadian phone maker could only tell TNW that “there will be various announcements over the next few weeks and months for APAC markets”.
As it stands, we expect BlackBerry 10 devices will launch promptly across the main markets in Southeast Asia — which has been a notable region for the company, although Android and iOS have caught up in a number of countries — but the situation is less clear in other parts of Asia.
BlackBerry has already confirmed that it will not offer the devices in Japan — which it says is “not a major market” for it — and reports have suggested it could follow suit in Korea, where speculation of poor sales and a non-committal statement from the company have encouraged rumors.
As for China, the world’s largest smartphone market, BlackBerry has traditionally struggled to compete there, but it is expected to be a focus for the company since it visibly increased its efforts to woo local developers there.
BlackBerry did not provide any specific comment on its plans for China, where overseas mobile devices must pass rigorous ‘sales certificate’ testing before launching, but the Global Times — a state-run English-language media outlet — has suggested the launch would taker place “sometime later this year”.
With Android and iOS continuing their path of dominance in the smartphone space, particularly in the West, developing markets like Asia and the Middle East have become significant regions of strength for BlackBerry.
However, with an unlocked Z10 at SG$918 (US$740) in Singapore and 2,188 ringgit (US$705) in Malaysia, there’s genuine concern that the device will be too expensive for many existing customers and fans in emerging markets, particularly since device subsidization is more limited, or often not available at all.
BlackBerry is planning mid- and lower-end BlackBerry 10 phones, which are likely to better suit many emerging market budgets, but there are no dates or confirmation on the horizon. It remains to be seen if BlackBerry’s new platform can retain whatever buzz it has generated among its supporters in Asia and other markets during the meantime.
The Z10 is on sale in the UK, UAE and Canada but, due to operator compatibility testing, it is estimated that US consumers won’t be able to get their hands on it until sometime next month.
Plans for the Q10 are even less certain, and it has been suggested that it may begin rolling out from April.
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