Is BlackBerry Ready to Show Itself Up?

BlackBerry Q10 QWERTY

It’s almost time for BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) to see how many loyal customers are still floating around in the U.S. The company’s newest device should hit shores soon, and it will carry a little more tradition than the last phone.

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After the introduction of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone, Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android operating system, and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone, BlackBerries were no longer high-tech products. In the realm of feature phones, BlackBerries were arguably genius, but in the world of smartphones, they simply weren’t getting high grades.

In order to get with the times, BlackBerry started working on its latest operating system, BB10, and it also started building a couple of modern smartphones. In January, the company debuted its new products. Unfortunately, it took a few months before any would make their way to the U.S.

When the first of BlackBerry’s new phones arrived in the U.S., it didn’t make a big splash. The Z10 features a full touchscreen like most modern smartphones, without the full QWERTY keyboard that was popular on so many of its predecessors.

The lack of this popular feature may have dissuaded many BlackBerry fans from purchasing the device, especially because they had probably heard that the Q10 smartphone would have the keyboard. That alone might have hurt sales of the Z10, but U.S. mobile carriers may have played an even bigger part in the phone’s poor performance. The Z10 was spurned by carriers, with lack of support and promotion, leading to only modest sales of the new device.

Now, the Q10 has a chance to test the U.S., and it will do so with the support of more than 26 buttons that the Z10 didn’t have. T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS) began offering the device Wednesday, Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) will start Thursday, and Sprint (NYSE:S) will begin later this summer. AT&T (NYSE:T) will soon begin pre-orders as well.

The Q10 may already be off to a better start than the Z10. On T-Mobile’s website, the device is featured prominently, right next to Samsung’s (SSNLF.PK) Galaxy S 4 and HTC’s HTC One. The carrier is offering the device at a flat rate of $579.99, or for a down payment of $99 with $20 payments every month for two years. Other carriers will likely offer the phone for $200 up-front with a 2-year contract.

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If the Q10 performs better in the market than the Z10, it could suggest to BlackBerry that customers want the full keyboard. It might also tell other smartphone makers that there’s still room in the market for good old-fashioned buttons on smartphones. Everyone and his mother — well, especially the mothers — knows that a typing on a touchscreen can be a thorough nuisance.

Of course, it would be hard to tell if the buttons were a source of success for the Q10. If carrier support for the Q10 is better than it was for the Z10, that could be a reason for the Q10 to outsell the Z10. Whatever the case, analysts are predicting that the Q10 will outperform the Z10 because of demand from BlackBerry users who won’t settle for a touchscreen-only device.

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