After testing times, could this be BlackBerry’s year?


The manufacturer has encountered a barren spell of late but according to Paul Withers, positive financial results and sales figures show a turnaround may be on the cards in 2013

Last year saw the start of a Nokia revival as consumers took to its Windows Phone 8 devices. Now BlackBerry seems intent on making 2013 its year.

The manufacturer stoked the fires at the start of the year when its UK and Ireland MD, Rob Orr, claimed 2013 was the most important year in its history.

At the time, the company was posting quarterly losses and the launch of its BB10 OS was seen as its key to survival. However, the release of the OS was postponed twice, and scepticism over BlackBerry’s future deepened.

The new platform and the Z10 handset were unveiled on January 30 and were released in the UK the following day, but analysts weren’t overly convinced, saying BB10 could struggle to achieve mass consumer appeal.

Days later, BlackBerry claimed three times as many Z10s had sold in the UK in its first week on sale than any of its previous devices. This sounded great, but it meant nothing until we were able to see the official stats.

This opportunity arose when the firm published its financial results for the three months to March 2. It lost three million subscribers but still posted a 571 per cent rise in profits to $94 million (£62 million).

The likes of Apple sell tens of millions of iPhones every quarter and although BlackBerry’s sales of one million Z10s seemed small in comparison, we must bear in mind the smartphone had only been on sale as part of a phased roll-out for a month.

What was even more impressive was the revelation by president and CEO Thorsten Heins (pictured) that 55 per cent of Z10 users had come from rival operating systems.

Revenues in the UK grew by 13 per cent to make up 13 per cent of BlackBerry’s overall total. Orr had said earlier in the year that success here would go a long way to determining the firm’s success globally. He was spot on.

The Q10 is due for release this month. It could also prove to be a driving force in attracting many BlackBerry 7 users to the new platform who are waiting to upgrade. The QWERTY keypad on the Q10, a feature synonymous with the manufacturer’s handsets in its heyday, could be a major pull.

However, let’s not get too excited about what BlackBerry is achieving. By the time it publishes its next quarterly results, BB10 will have established itself in the UK, as well as in other key markets such as Canada and the US.

It’s also important to remember that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is released on the same day as the Q10 and with plenty of marketing funds behind the Xperia Z and One, BlackBerry will have to hold its own against its rivals.

These are early days for BlackBerry, but there may just be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.