Has the BlackBerry Torch flopped already?

The latest flagship device from Research in Motion (RIM), the BlackBerry Torch, has sold only 150,000 devices over the launch weekend, according to an analyst quoted by The Wall Street Journal. RIM also halved the price of the Torch this week, signaling the new smartphone is indeed not hot enough.

RIM heralded the BlackBerry Torch as the best BlackBerry yet, with its sliding keyboard design and touchscreen, 5-megapixel camera, and revamped BlackBerry OS6. However, since it became available on AT&T for US$199 with a two-year contract, the Torch hasn’t made a killing in sales.

Analysts at RBC Capital Markets and Stifel Nicolaus quoted by the WSJ both put weekend sales of the Torch at around 150,000, one-tenth what the iPhone 4 sold in its first three days of availability (1.7 million). The figure is particularly depressing for RIM, as its BlackBerry brand is leading the smartphone market in the U.S. Neither RIM nor AT&T, did confirm or deny the figures.

The low sales figures for the Torch have presumably prompted RIM to slash the price of the device, now available at the new US$99 price from various online retailers (AT&T still sells the Torch for US$199). RIM is selling the Torch at a loss now, as manufacturing the device costs US$183 in raw parts, according to iSuppli. The iPhone 4 costs $188 in raw parts, according to the same source.

The slow reception the BlackBerry Torch is drawing from users could be traced to two main factors. Before the device’s launch, reviewers were not particularly impressed with the device. They reached a consensus that the Torch is the best BlackBerry yet, but not impressive enough to lure potential customers from the iPhone 4 or Google Android smartphones.

The limited sales numbers for the Torch could also be due to the fact that the smartphone had a very limited rollout. The Torch is now available only in the U.S., and only on AT&T. The iPhone 4, despite an AT&T exclusive as well, benefited from a wider international launch. RIM hasn’t announced yet when the Torch will go on sale internationally, or on other U.S. carriers.

PC World (US)

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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