AT&T Will Begin Preorders of BlackBerry Z10 Phone Tomorrow

AT&T Inc., the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier, will begin taking consumers’ orders for BlackBerry’s new flagship Z10 phone tomorrow, ahead of the device going on sale March 22.

The Z10 will sell for $199.99 with a two-year agreement, Dallas-based AT&T said today in a statement. It is the first phone to run BlackBerry’s new BB10 operating system, the linchpin of the Canadian smartphone company’s comeback bid.

The U.S. rollout of the Z10 trails its debut in other countries, a delay that BlackBerry has attributed to a lengthier testing process by American carriers. With the new phone, BlackBerry and AT&T are looking to entice customers into ditching the physical keyboard that was once BlackBerry’s hallmark in favor of a touch-screen interface.

“Customers who have grown to love the tried and true BlackBerry experience will continue to enjoy the easy typing and the secure platform they expect with a fresh platform that lets them get more out of their smartphone,” Jeff Bradley, a senior vice president at AT&T, said in the statement.

Shares of BlackBerry, formerly known as Research In Motion Ltd., rose 14 percent to $14.90 at the close in New York, the biggest gain since Feb. 4. The stock has climbed 26 percent this year.

T-Mobile USA Inc., the fourth-largest U.S. carrier, began taking its own Z10 preorders today for business customers. The first devices will be received by those users as early as this week, T-Mobile said in an e-mailed statement. The Z10 will be widely available to consumers by the end of the month, the company said.

In its statement, AT&T didn’t mention the timing of the release of the Q10, a model with a physical keyboard designed to appeal to BlackBerry’s user base. Although BlackBerry Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins said in February that the Q10 will go on sale “around the April-May time frame,” the company has yet to give specific dates for its release in any country.

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