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May 13, 2014

BlackBerry’s Z3 will struggle in emerging markets

Emerging market targeted budget smart phone .

By Amy-Jo Crowley

BlackBerry’s latest budget smartphone will struggle to compete against smartphones around the $100 price mark from Nokia, Samsung and other Chinese vendors as the firm puts part of its turnaround effort into emerging markets.

The Z3 Jakarta Edition, the first phone to be launched under new CEO John Chen, has been released exclusively for the Indonesian market and goes on sale from 15 May for 2,199,000 Indonesian rupea ($190).

BlackBerry had said the relatively low price of $190 will be a particular selling point aimed at fast growing economies.

However, Annette Zimmermann, Gartner’s research director of consumer markets and technology, told CBR: "I don’t think this phone is going to save them. This device is a very limited offer and even if the expansion gets broader – the price of $190 is more a mid-range offer rather than low cost.

"Low cost in my view is $100 or less."

Zimmerman pointed to low-end devices such as the Nokia Asha 308, Samsung’s Galaxy Poket Duos and Huawei Vision as smartphones that could outperform the Z3.

"There are also many other whitebox vendors in the Indonesian market. And, on a worldwide level, you have tons of $100 phones from many Chinese vendors," she said.

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Susana Santos, research analyst for mobile devices at IDC, said: "There is competition in this price band from the majority of all the other vendors like Nokia 630, Moto G and Chinese manufacturers. It won’t be easy for BlackBerry and if it does not tackle this segment tier, others will."

The 5-inch handset allows users to seamlessly switch between Bahasa, the Indonesian script, and English. It also comes with a set of BBM stickers featuring local characters and users can join local BBM channels to receive updates from various brands and opinion leaders.

Zimmerman said: "The clever part here is the customisation with local content and around the MMB. BBM as we know used to be very popular but has gotten very strong competition from Whatsapp also in Indonesia. That is the challenge here."

"By adding those customised stickers to the BBM they are trying to make the service more interesting. Again I think this is more a trigger for die-hard BlackBerry fans than for people using competitor devices."

The device has a 540×960 pixel display and comes with a dual-core 1.2 GHz Qualcomm MSM8230 processer, a five-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 1.1-megapixel front camera.

Santos said that while the screen size is appealing with desired high end specs, "it does not stand out from the crowd with any particular feature".

Other features include 8GB of storage, a MicroSD slot, 1080p HD video recording and preloaded applications such as Compass, CLICK Music and 21 Cineplex.

The Canadian smartphone maker suffered huge losses and cut 40% of its workforce in last year in the face of intense competition from rivals Apple and Samsung.

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