Who Bought All Those BlackBerry Phones?
Late Wednesday, shares of BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY) spiked higher into the close after an interesting press release declared that the company had sold one million BlackBerry 10 smartphones to an “established partner.”
The release gave no indication who the partner was, or even what type of BlackBerry 10 devices they were (there are two, the Z10 and Q10).
Still, that many BlackBerry phones in one order limits the list of suspects significantly. BlackBerry remains a favorite among corporations, but few have a million employees, and those that do, generally aren't the type of companies to give their employees phones.
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) for example, employs about 2.1 million workers, while McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) a cool 1.9 million. But neither of these companies is the kind to give the majority of their workers phones.
If it was a specific customer that purchased the devices, it seems more likely to be a government agency. The U.S. Department of Defense employs well over three million. The DoD has had a long history with BlackBerry, but due to its high security standards, the agency requires extensive testing before approving devices for use.
In fact, the DoD didn't approve BlackBerry 7 devices until just last May -- well over six months after they went on sale. There haven't been any reports of DoD approving BlackBerry 10 devices, so unless that announcement is rapidly forthcoming, it seems unlikely that the DoD bought the phones.
It could have been a foreign buyer. Although BlackBerry's popularity has experienced a significant decline in the developed world, the company remains a top smartphone choice for many in the developing world. India, in particular, remains a large market for BlackBerry.
India has virtually no land lines, instead relying almost wholly on mobile phones. According to The Globe and Mail, the country has roughly 900 million mobile subscribers. BlackBerry's Z10 went on sale in India last month, several weeks before U.S. buyers will get a chance to purchase the phone.
Although it would make the press release misleading, the buyer might have been a U.S. mobile carrier. In particular, AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) would be possibilities. Sprint (NYSE: S) has only committed to carrying the BlackBerry Q10, and won't get the device at all for at least another month.
AT&T is set to release BlackBerry's Z10 on March 22, while Verizon will follow on March 28. Could one of these carriers, seeing strong pre-order demand, have committed to purchasing a million of the devices?
At any rate, the release was potent enough to propel shares of BlackBerry Wednesday afternoon, but will it sustain the company over the longer-term? Rival Samsung is set to unveil its next flagship phone -- the Galaxy S4 -- at an event Thursday night. Meanwhile, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is rumored to be prepping the iPhone 5S, a device which could include significant new technologies like a thumb scanner.
The smartphone market continues to be hyper-competitive and BlackBerry certainly has its hands full. Shares of the Canadian tech giant traded near $15.40 Thursday, down over 1.5% on the session.
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