U.S. customers waiting to buy a BlackBerry Z10 handset shouldn’t have much longer to wait. On Friday, Bloomberg reported that AT&T will have the phones in hand to sell on March 22. The news outlet says two people familiar with the plan are its sources and that AT&T(s t) wouldn’t officially comment.
It’s not too difficult to believe the phone’s upcoming availability on AT&T, however; in fact, it reads like a planned leak to me, in order to build up more buzz for the new BlackBerry(s BBRY) platform and phone.
When the new Z10 debuted in January, BlackBerry officials didn’t provide U.S. availability dates — that’s for the carriers to do — but offered expectations of a March time frame Indeed, T-Mobile has said prior that it plans a mid-March launch. Verizon(s vz)(s vod) has yet to make any availability announcements while Sprint (s s) is passing on the Z10; it is opting for the Q10 handset with hardware keyboard.
Regardless of the exact launch dates, I’m keenly interested in how well the Z10 sells in the U.S. Currently available in Canada and a few overseas countries, there’s a bit of a debate on actual sales. Some analysts are reporting poor sell-through rates while others suggest sales are great. We have already seen some price cuts on the Z10 from one major U.K. outlet, which tells me there may be too much unsold inventory in certain areas.
Another reason U.S. sales are of interest: Apple’s iPhone(s AAPL) and Google(s GOOG) Android phones make up a massive 90.1 percent of smartphone ownership here. My usage of the Z10 didn’t show me reasons for many smartphone owners to switch away from the current incumbents, yet some reports indicate that 30 to 50 percent of sales are to “switchers.” That sounds high to me — and is still unconfirmed — but perhaps U.S. sales of the Z10 to current iPhone and Android handset owners will prove me wrong.