Sprint Nextel Corp. (S:US) will be the only major U.S. carrier not to offer BlackBerry’s new flagship Z10 touch-screen model when it debuts this month, opting instead to wait for the keyboard-equipped Q10.
Sprint, the third-largest U.S. mobile-phone service, plans to offer the Q10 later this year, said Mark Elliott, a spokesman for the Overland Park, Kansas-based carrier. That model has a physical keypad, in addition to a smaller touch screen.
“We aren’t saying there’s anything different about our customers,” Elliott said. “We think our customers will be happy with the qwerty keyboard and touch screen on the Q10.”
The move means Sprint won’t be selling the flagship model of BlackBerry’s new lineup, which is based on the revamped BB10 operating system. BlackBerry, based in Waterloo, Ontario, is trying to convince customers that a touch-screen device can work just as well as its traditional keyboard models. Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins said he expects its new touch devices to outsell keyboard models 3-to-1.
Shares of BlackBerry (BBRY:US), formerly called Research In Motion Ltd. (BB), fell 0.8 percent to $13.26 at the close in New York. Sprint’s stock was unchanged yesterday at $5.80.
The other big U.S. carriers -- AT&T Inc. (T:US), Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA -- have created sign-up pages for customers interested in getting e-mail alerts about the availability of the BlackBerry Z10. Exact release dates haven’t been announced
The phone, which has 4.2-inch (11-centimer) screen and more closely resembles the iPhone and Android devices, is the linchpin of BlackBerry’s comeback strategy. It was unveiled in January and has since gone on sale in the U.K., Canada and other countries.
The U.S. release was delayed until this month because carriers needed longer to test the device, Heins has said.
The Q10, meanwhile, won’t be available until April at the earliest, BlackBerry has said. Verizon, the largest U.S. carrier, said last week that it wouldn’t offer the Q10 until mid-summer. Sprint’s Elliott declined to say when the carrier would begin offering the model.
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