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BlackBerry Torch sales not looking so hot

August 17, 2010 | 12:33 pm


Research in Motion and AT&T call their new BlackBerry Torch smart-phone "the best BlackBerry ever," but customers don't seem to agree.

That's despite best efforts by online retailer, which sells the 5-day-old product for $100 with a two-year contract -- half its suggested price.

[Updated, 2:02 p.m. To clarify, has been selling the phone for $100 since Thursday.]

Analysts are split on exactly how well, or not-so-well, the phone is performing at retail.

The Wall Street Journal has a solid paragraph summing up those opinions. They range from "healthy" and "going well," say RBC Capital Markets' Mike Abramsky and Kaufman Bros.'s Shaw Wu, respectively, to "tepid" and "underwhelming," say Citi's Jim Suva and Goldman Sachs analysts, respectively.

RBC pegs the Torch's sales on opening weekend at about 150,000 units. The Torch launch did not draw crowds to AT&T stores anywhere near the turnout there was for AT&T's other big summer product, the iPhone 4, or for Verizon Wireless' Droid X.

Initial sales of 2008's BlackBerry Storm, the premiere touch-screen phone from RIM, are believed to have been in the same ballpark as the Torch. The Storm was an ill-fated product, plagued with software and hardware shortcomings. But it's available on the largest U.S. wireless network, Verizon.

The Torch is supposed to be a milestone gadget for RIM. It is the company's first phone with both a touch screen and a physical keyboard. It's also the first BlackBerry with the new OS 6 software. The Torch has been billed as the guiding light that would shepherd the Canadian smart-phone leader from a rut brought on by fast-gaining, multimedia-enabled competitors.

I criticized the BlackBerry Torch in my Tech Trends review for having a slow processor and a cramped keyboard. It falls short of both being a great touch-screen phone, and the pinnacle work device that BlackBerrys are known for.

But the Torch has another strike against it. It's tied to AT&T, the nation's second-largest network that's also home to Apple's much-loved iPhone.

Nearly half of iPhone owners say they'd consider switching to Verizon if that network began offering it, according to market research firm Morpace. So did you think a new BlackBerry would really convince many to hang tight?

-- Mark Milian

Photo: Sales representatives help customers on the first day the Blackberry Torch hits the shelves at an AT&T store last week in Washington D.C. Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images