AT&T, Verizon Won’t Sell BlackBerry for More Than IPhone

AT&T Inc. shrugged off BlackBerry’s suggested retail price of $249 for the new Q10 phone -- a level that would have made it $50 more expensive than the iPhone --and began taking preorders for the device today at $199.99.

Verizon Wireless plans to start selling the phone tomorrow at the same price, which requires a two-year contract, in line with what it charges for the top-of-the-line iPhone 5, Samsung Electronics Co.’s flagship Galaxy S4 and BlackBerry’s Z10. BlackBerry set the Q10’s suggested price at $249 in April, touting the new phone as a premium product.

Kristian Tear, BlackBerry’s chief operating officer, said today that $249 “is definitely a good price,” especially if you’re courting corporate buyers. The carriers, though, may want to also target consumers, he said.

“If you want to do a more consumery play, I think they wanted to make it simple and have one price,” Tear said.

The Q10 is the second phone to run the revamped BlackBerry 10 operating system, the linchpin of the Waterloo, Ontario-based company’s comeback plan. While the software is new, the hardware retains the classic keyboard design that is popular among BlackBerry loyalists. The Z10, meanwhile, has an iPhone-like touch-screen interface.

Companies Upgrade

With the Q10, the company is targeting the lawyers and bankers who stayed faithful to BlackBerry during its decline in market share. Law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP said today that it will deploy 500 BlackBerry 10 devices to its staff. Twenty-nine percent of BlackBerry’s corporate customers in the Fortune 500 have now upgraded to BlackBerry 10 phones, the smartphone maker said today.

The stock climbed less than 1 percent to $13.63 at the close today in New York. It has risen 15 percent this year.

While reviews for the Z10 and Q10 have been generally positive, BlackBerry continues to lose ground to rivals. Microsoft Corp.’s Windows Phone overtook BlackBerry last quarter as the third-largest smartphone operating system worldwide, behind Google Inc.’s Android and Apple’s iOS, according to IDC.

AT&T, the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier, doesn’t yet have a firm date for when the Q10 will be available in stores, said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for the Dallas-based company. Verizon, the market leader, expects to have the phone in stores by June 10, with online orders starting tomorrow.

Installment Plan

T-Mobile US Inc., which began selling the Q10 today, is offering it with a down payment for $99.99, followed by 24 monthly installments of $20. If a customer cancels before the two years are up, they pay the remaining balance on the phone. Sprint Nextel Corp. said in May it will begin selling Q10 in late summer.

BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins said in April that sales of the Q10 should be in the “tens of millions,” without giving a time frame. BlackBerry’s Tear declined to reiterate that goal today, though he said the phone will appeal to many of BlackBerry’s 76 million subscribers and may win back others who have ditched the brand. The Q10 has been approved by 255 carriers worldwide, he said.

“There are a lot of users out there in the installed base waiting for a keyboard device, but we also expect new customers that were BlackBerry customers before to come back,” he said. “The Q10 proposition is unique.”

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