According to MarketWatch, more than half of the customers purchasing the new Z10 smartphone in Canada are new to the BlackBerry (BBRY) platform. This was disclosed during a conference for the company's enterprise customers and developers in San Francisco. BlackBerry's VP Richard Piasentin also said more than 33% of customers buying the Z10 in the U.K. are also new to the company's smartphone platform.
BlackBerry is expected to do well in Canada (its home turf). Canada's biggest independent mobile phone retailer Glentel Inc said the BlackBerry is the leading smartphone sold in all of its 330 Canadian retail stores since February 5. But Canada is not the only market that BlackBerry is doing well.
For those who don't know it, England is the biggest BlackBerry market in the world. Just to give you some numbers, in Q4 of 2012 Blackberry had a 12% market share in the U.K, with Apple (AAPL) at 25%. In the U.S. Blackberry has around 2% of the market, compared to Apple's 25%.
Part of Blackberry's success in the U.K. has to do with the popularity the company's devices among teenagers. See BBM, the free instant messenger program, is free over WI-Fi and teenagers can chat and text to their hearts delight. In fact not being a Blackberry user myself, I did not know about this feature (but I will be when I buy my next phone).
If we assume that about 50% of current BlackBerry users buy the new Z10, and if we add to that figure another 30% for first time buyers (50% in Canada), then that means the Blackberry will gain market share and popularity. It will not become another Apple, but like I said before, it really doesn't need to in order for shareholders to make money. At least as far as Canada and the U.K. are concerned, Blackberry's market share will increase.
In South Africa, customers who subscribe to any one of the Cell C Service Plans for the BlackBerry Z10 will receive unlimited BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) for life, including text and file sharing, photos, video clips and voice notes. Based on the English experience, I would say that is a good incentive.
In Indonesia, even though Android phones are catching up, BlackBerry was still the number one smartphone brand in the second quarter of last year. In fact, ABI Research said that BlackBerry accounted for nearly half of Indonesia's smartphone shipments in 2012. So while the company is not expected to sell that many Z10 handsets, it will sell enough in proportion to its market share. Meaning it will probably sell more premium phones than other competitors in this market. And while the android competition is catching up with apps like WhatsApp that dilute the Blackberry BBM advantage, I think that the company will catch up when it offers lower priced handsets running on BB10.
In India, the world's second-largest mobile phone market, BlackBerry ranks third after Samsung (SSNLF.PK) and Nokia (NOK). BlackBerry Z10 will go on sale for about $800. Sales are expected to do OK although not spectacular, but remember India is one of the few markets that BlackBerry has been gaining market share over the past several years. This market share residue will spill over in the high end smartphone space also. Even if the company does not sell that many Z10 handsets, it will sell enough to make money and lay the ground work for lower priced models running on BB10 in the future.
But it's not only in the U.K. and Canada that the BlackBerry brand is making a comeback, BlackBerry is actually making a comeback even in the U.S. and the phone is not even on sale yet.
According to brandindex.com:
BlackBerry is enjoying its best consumer perception in the US since September 2011 in the wake of its new smartphone line announcement. This brings the brand closer to the industry leaders, Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy.
The BlackBerry brand has been picking up more positive feedback than negative from consumers since mid-January, after spending most of the past 14 months with predominantly negative scores.
BlackBerry, iPhone, and Galaxy were measured with YouGov BrandIndex's Buzz score, which asks "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?" All results are for adults 18+.
BlackBerry was hovering around the zero mark from December through mid-January before rising to its current Buzz score of 7. Ahead of BlackBerry is Samsung's Galaxy brand at 16, which started January 2012 with a Buzz score of 2.
When asked what phone they were likely to purchase within the next 6 months 18% of BlackBerry owners expected to purchase another BlackBerry in the quarter April-June 2012, rising to 43% in Jan-March 2013. Loyalty for iPhone owners dropped from 92% to 85% over the same period, while Galaxy's improved from 46% to 53%.
So if about 43% of current users plan to buy a BlackBerry Z10 with an additional 30% that will probably be first time buyers, I would say that BlackBerry's success in the U.S. is assured and the company can expect to gain in market share.
As the chart above shows, Apple's loyalty has drooped from 92% to 85%. While that is nothing to complain about, it is that 3-5% of extra market share that BlackBerry needs to solidify (at Apples expense) to make the BlackBerry brand a corporate household name in the U.S. once again.
BlackBerry Z10 sales are off to a good start in Canada and the U.K. The company is slowly beginning to offer the Z10 in many other markets including many emerging markets. As the Z10 is offered in more and more markets, sales will pick up and BlackBerry will regain some of the market share it has lost over the years. However, I think that sales will really take off when the company offers lower priced models that will appeal to a lower budget. Both in western markets as well as emerging markets.
Finally, remember that the company does not need to sell that many phones to make money, nor does it need to become Apple. It just needs a small piece of the smartphone space and I think it will have no problem getting it.
Finally, so far we are only talking about phone handsets. If the company makes a comeback in the tablet space, it will be a whole different ballgame.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.