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BlackBerry Z10 Coming to AT&T March 22nd. Will That Hurt Sales?

The daily rumor mill now points to the AT&T BlackBerry Z10 release to happen on March 22nd. That is a full week later than I reported just yesterday. In my Thursday Tech Thoughts post I wrote posed the question whether the BlackBerry Z10 & HTC One were in trouble because the phones won’t be released until after the Galaxy S4 announcement is made. The major point to my position is that Samsung’s Galaxy S brand has grown to rival Apple’s iPhone. The same rules apply that if you’re going to release a phone in a competing time period you’d best do it before the announcement of the bigger brand is made. I believe that both the Z10 and the HTC One will suffer from not getting on shelves before Samsung’s announcement.

Well now I’m hearing that not only will the BlackBerry Z10 not be released pre-Galaxy S4 announcement they will miss the window by a full week. Will that hurt sales? Definitely yes. It is no longer a question of if but by how much. BlackBerry has done a terrific job getting the Z10 outfitted with the latest technology so any mainstream feature that is brought to the market in the next year the Z10 will be able to handle it. The issue here is that the Z10 is a new beast. Don’t get caught up in stories that paint the picture a significant portion of users who have bought the Z10 are iPhone and Android converts. The same held true with Windows Phone. When your sales are only a couple hundred thousand to a couple million percentages fluctuate more easily. Also of note is that several reporters have posed the question of how many of these supposed converts were previous BlackBerry owners who returned to the platform. Even granting that the percentage of converts is true (I have no reason to doubt it) there are a few caveats to these sales notes going forward.

There is a reason why BlackBerry released the Z10 first in the U.K. and Canada. These are the two areas that the BlackBerry brand hasn’t gone to hell. When you add in the fact BlackBerry is a Canadian company with strong and deep nationalist support you’d expect for them to do well there. It is the same for Samsung in Korea and Nokia in Finland. Heck, Apple does far better in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. This leads me to my second caveat and is really the more important and damaging to BlackBerry’s prospects by missing the pre-Galaxy S4 launch window. The U.S. is a me-too nation. People love to be part of the populist and are less willing to stand out from the crowd. In the U.S. it is the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy and everything else.

The BlackBerry Z10 will be caught up in the massive marketing campaign for the Galaxy S4. Carrier sales reps will be well versed in the best that Android has to offer and people know the brand. Samsung has recognized what Apple had years ago. If you want something done right do it yourself. Depending on the carrier to properly market your device is asking for poor sales. Ask Nokia. They released an awesome phone in the Lumia 920 but in the U.S. you don’t see any Nokia created marketing at all. Yes they do tons of internet and social marketing but where is the TV ads that keeps the phone in front of the majority of Americans sitting in front of their tv screen. I see more HTC 8X commercials from carriers than Lumia 920. I am sure BlackBerry is prepared to market the device significantly. I just hope that a major part of that plan is to rely on carriers but sadly I believe it will be.

Samsung will spend at least 500 million on the marketing of the Galaxy S4 throughout 2013. I need no other basis than to cite the massive and consistent marketing the company did for the Galaxy S3 and the success the device had. Samsung has made it clear that 2013 they will be even bolder about marketing their products. BlackBerry, like HTC, can’t compete with that because they simply don’t have the financial resources. BlackBerry would need to change people’s minds and that is incredibly expensive to do. You have to spend something like 10x the amount of money on switching somebody to your product. People don’t like to switch once they make a choice. Tens (Maybe 100s of millions) have made the choice that the Galaxy S flagship device line is what they like and want in a phone. BlackBerry launching March 22nd puts it squarely in the path of the avalanche of Samsung Galaxy S4 marketing and that is not an enviable position to be in.

I’ll be updating this article later today or tomorrow once I do my rounds at local (Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX) area of carrier stores and gauge their opinion of the upcoming Z10. Stay tuned.