Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry has launched a new low-cost touchscreen smartphone in a bid to revive falling sales in emerging markets.
Launched in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Z3 phone, is the first in a line of devices made in collaboration with FIH Mobile, a unit of Taiwanese Foxconn Technology Group, known for assembling gadgets for Apple.
For BlackBerry, whose sales have continuously been declining, the market performance of the new £120 gadget may be critical. The gadget is tailored specifically for southeast Asia where expensive devices traditionally fail due to the economic situation of the majority of the population.
Indonesia used to be BlackBerry’s realm until two years ago. The Canadian firm used to have a 40 per cent market share in the country, selling more than 600,000 handsets per quarter.
However, over the past two years it started losing to Apple and Android-powered devices including Samsung. Last year’s launch of the premium, high-priced BlackBerry 10 failed to attract buyers in Indonesia and shipments decreased to around 100,000. By 2014, BlackBerry’s share of Indonesian smartphone market shrinked to just 4, per cent.
"If this device allows them to grow again, even if it's just small, steady growth, that's a success in itself. That says there is still room for BlackBerry in Indonesia," said Ryan Lai, market analyst at consultancy IDC.
The Z3 phone, the first to be launched by BlackBerry since new CEO John Chen took up duty last year, is expected to hit store shelves on 15 May. After Indonesia, it will be gradually introduced in six other countries including the Philippines, India, Vietnam and Malaysia.
"If the market doesn't receive this product well, then we definitely have some negative issues to deal with," Chen said at the launch at Jakarta's Ritz-Carlton hotel. BlackBerry said it doesn't have an official sales target for the device, but Chen said he expects to sell millions of Z3 handsets around the world, without disclosing further details.
Later this year, BlackBerry will launch a new, non-touchscreen device dubbed the BlackBerry Classic in partnership with Foxconn. The handset will see a return of the command keys that include 'Menu,' 'Back,' 'Send' and 'End' buttons, along with a trackpad. BlackBerry hopes the move will address the concerns of those users who found their new devices hard to navigate.
For Foxconn, the tie-up fits with plans to set up a manufacturing plant in Indonesia to build smartphones and other electronic devices. The Taiwanese company's ambitions have been on hold since 2012 due to drawn-out talks over tax breaks, property and import restrictions.