Muted reception for new BlackBerry in Indonesia

AFP, Friday 16 May 2014

Only a few dozen Indonesians queued up Friday to lay their hands on BlackBerry's new budget handset, in a lukewarm welcome that highlighted the smartphone maker's fading fortunes.

The Z3 -- launched in one of Blackberry's last bastions-- is a key test of whether the ailing Canadian company can regain ground lost in emerging markets to Apple's iPhone and devices using the Google Android operating system.

But only around 50 people queued up ahead of the phone going on sale in the main launch for customers at an upmarket shopping mall in west Jakarta.

It was a stark contrast to the huge crowds that flocked to previous launch events for BlackBerrys in Indonesia, underlining how the smartphone maker's popularity has declined even in a country regarded as one of its last strongholds.

Nevertheless there were still some die-hard fans at the event who were excited to get their hands on the new touchscreen phone, whose full name is "Z3, Jakarta Edition".

"I have high hopes for the Z3 with all its new features -- the big screen, camera and (latest operating system)," said Nisma Mediyanti, 32.

"Hopefully it is as good, or even better than, the iPhone."

BlackBerry hopes thousands of devices will be sold at the event over the next three days, where the phone is being offered with a 400,000 rupiah ($35) discount from its original price of 2,199,000 rupiah.

For many in Indonesia though, BlackBerry is already a thing of the past.

"I prefer a phone that functions like a mini computer, and I don't see that with BlackBerry," said 28-year-old Charlie Tanara, who was shopping at the mall but had no plans to check out the new BlackBerry.

"I am using a Samsung and I like them because they have a large selection of applications, many of which are free."

Chief executive John Chen unveiled the phone -- BlackBerry's first since he took the helm of the company and the first from its partnership with tech giant Foxconn -- with great fanfare at a press launch in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Indonesia is the testbed for the new Z3, after which BlackBerry plans to roll it out in other Asian countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

Ahead of the launch, retailers pointed to healthy online pre-orders, which began on April 28.

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