Research In Motion Ltd. on Friday launched its new BlackBerry Z10 smartphone in Indonesia, the company's third-largest market, as it rapidly loses ground elsewhere to rivals such as Apple and Samsung.
Some 300 buyers gathered at the upmarket Central Park mall in the capital Jakarta by midday – many queued outside from 7 a.m. – to snap up the Z10, already launched in Britain and Canada, and set to hit U.S. stores next week.
The Z10 is seen as critical to BlackBerry as it seeks to revive its sagging fortunes and regain its lost global market share from Apple and other smartphone makers such as Samsung.
BlackBerry users have dropped in numbers in many of its key markets, but sales are still robust in Indonesia, a nation of 240 million people recognized as the smartphone maker's biggest market outside the U.S. and Britain.
However Google Inc.'s Android overtook BlackBerry as the most popular operating system in Indonesia in the second quarter of 2012 with more than 50 per cent of the market share, the U.S.-based International Data Corporation (IDC) said.
That is the most recent period for which rankings are available.
BlackBerry still has "many loyalists (in the country) who will still run at the first sight of the (Z10)," Sudev Bangah, the head of IDC's Indonesia operations, told AFP.
"With the launch of the Z10, we feel that this market share is going to pick up a little bit more, however not significantly (enough) to offset the Android," he said.
The Indonesia launch came after Samsung unveiled a slim, feature-rich Galaxy S4 in New York on Thursday. The South Korean consumer electronics giant said the device would roll out in 155 countries in late April.
Hengki Marzuki, 36, who tried to sneak into the Central Park shopping centre before it opened for the launch, walked out by mid-morning with a gleaming Z10, his second BlackBerry, for which he shelled out 7-million rupiah ($722 U.S.).
"He's been waiting to buy this phone since January and he sold his Samsung Android phone to buy this," Marzuki's wife, Dega Fitri, told AFP.
BlackBerry Indonesia marketing director Eka Anwar said: "With the Z10, and five other products we are going to launch here, we want to make sure everyone holds only a BlackBerry Z10 and no other phone."
But the launch was nothing like the unveiling of the BlackBerry's Bold 9790 in 2011, which ended in a crush as fans tried to grab phones going at half price, in a scene resembling a rock concert.
Android-based phones have lately managed to lure away price-conscious customers, with some by Samsung and Lenovo selling for just $70, while recent models of Apple and BlackBerry cost up to 10 times more.