BlackBerry’s Heins Says He Won’t Sell $50 Phones

BlackBerry, the Canadian smartphone maker, said it’s readying less expensive devices for emerging markets like India, though it has no plans to compete with lower-cost Asian rivals at the $50 to $60 level.

“Understand where you are playing and resist being talked into segments that you know will not serve your purpose and will not result in shareholder value,” Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins said in a question-and-answer session at a conference in BlackBerry’s hometown of Waterloo, Ontario. “You will not see us getting into the 50-, 60-buck phone segment. This is not BlackBerry.”

BlackBerry began selling the Z10 unsubsidized in India last month at a cost of 43,490 rupees ($800), counting on wealthier Indians to build buzz for the company’s new operating system before cheaper BlackBerry 10 models arrive. Sales in emerging markets like Indonesia and India had held up better than in Europe and North America even as sales overall fell by 47 percent last quarter.

“You will see new products being launched this year based on BlackBerry 10, all fully LTE-capable, the whole 10 yards, that are more geared towards those price bands where people need to be,” Heins said.

Messaging Service

BlackBerry, formerly known as Research In Motion Ltd., has maintained higher market share in India helped by the popularity of its free instant-messaging service and lower prices than Apple Inc.’s iPhone. The South Asian nation accounts for about 20 percent of BlackBerry’s Asia-Pacific sales, according to IDC.

Asian rivals that sell low-cost phones in India include China’s ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies.

Heins said he was surprised by how well the touch-screen Z10 sold in India after its Feb. 26 debut, with five days’ worth of inventory vanishing in two days.

“I got an emergency call from my manager from India saying, ‘I’m sold out after two days,’” Heins said. “So now we’re scrambling to reload those channels.”

BlackBerry shares fell 1 percent to $13.22 at the close today in New York. The stock has gained 11 percent this year.