BUSINESS
04/30/2013 12:31 EDT | Updated 06/30/2013 05:12 EDT

BlackBerry keyboard phone will land first in Toronto, rest of Canada to follow

TORONTO - BlackBerry users hoping to get their hands on the latest version of the keyboard smartphone will have to wait a couple more days — if they live outside of Toronto.

The company (TSX:BB) says the release of the BlackBerry Q10 will begin first in the Greater Toronto Area on Wednesday, before it expands to the rest of Canada later in the week.

"The demand in Toronto is very, very strong, and we want to make sure we have enough supply," chief operating officer Kristian Tear said in an interview.

"We start off by selling it in the Greater Toronto Area, then we expand the coverage and bring BlackBerry Q10 to all Canadians who are waiting for it throughout the country over the next couple of days."

The keyboard version of the smartphone is popular with business users, especially with bankers and traders on Bay Street. Many of those phones are purchased by businesses, or enterprise customers, who buy the devices in bulk for their employees.

The speed of the rollout for the BlackBerry Q10 phone in key markets around the world will be about three times faster than the launch of the touchscreen model earlier this year, Tear said.

BlackBerry is expected to release the phone in the crucial U.S. market next month, though a date hasn't been announced.

In Canada, the phone will be available through Bell (TSX:BCE), Rogers (TSX:RCI.B) and Telus (TSX:T), with each company offering the phone on a three-year contract for $199.99. Telus and Bell will also sell the phone without a contract for $700.

The Q10 arrived in the U.K. over the weekend under an exclusive launch at department store Selfridges, which saw lineups of both customers and exporters who planned to buy the devices and ship them to other countries. The U.K. sales have exceeded the company's expectations, Tear said, though sales figures haven't been released.

"I think we absolutely have a hit in our hands with this device," he said.

Some analysts have recently observed that sales of the BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen phone are on a downwards trend in some markets, while the device never really took off in the United States where it arrived in stores last month.

Later this year, BlackBerry is expected to unveil a broader array of new smartphones as it builds a portfolio of phones that will be broken into three tiers: devices for high-end users, as well as variations that sell at mid- and "entry-level'' prices.

Shares of BlackBerry were ahead five per cent, or 78 cents, to $16.56 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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