updated 11:25 pm EDT, Mon August 16, 2010
Analysts say BlackBerry Torch debut underwhelming
New estimates posted Monday have suggested that the launch of the BlackBerry Torch was modest [WSJ sub. required]. Researchers at both RBC Capital Markets and Stifel Nicolaus put the touchscreen slider's weekend sales at just 150,000 units, or well below the iPhone 4 debut several weeks earlier. The launch was US-only versus Apple's multi-country debut but was still unusually soft compared to earlier releases this year.
Neither AT&T nor RIM has confirmed the numbers, although earlier investigations had shown no shortages the evening of the Torch ship date.
The results may be a sign of trouble for RIM. Although 150,000 is significant, RIM's higher overall shipments than Apple and most other smartphone builders suggest that the release of what's supposed to be the flagship was muted. The analysts blamed the slow uptake partly on AT&T's exclusive but also the nature of its audience, which still skews heavily towards workers that aren't likely to demand an early upgrade.
Even home users might be waiting, they added; since BlackBerry 6 is coming to owners of newer Bold and Pearl 3G models, many may have decided the software would be enough. Critics have warned that the Torch is still using the same two-year-old processor as the original Bold and, apart from more RAM, has no significant feature upgrades over its predecessor.
Regardless of motivations, RIM may not have the luxury of wider profit margins based on a iSuppli cost breakdown. Despite older hardware, the device costs a total of $183 in raw parts and assembly, or just a few dollars below the $188 iPhone 4. The cost comes despite having a quarter of the display resolution of Apple's device as well as a slower processor and reduced storage.
Of the costs of the phone, the largest is the $34.85 LCD and touch layer. Samsung's RAM and flash storage were next at $34.25. Marvell's cellular chipset cost $15.