RIM Halves BlackBerry Torch Price to Boost Sales

Research in Motion slashed the price of its new BlackBerry Torch 9800 down to $99 to boost flagging sales against rival handsets, such as the iPhone 4. But, is it worth it?

The new $99 price, with a two-year contract with AT&T, is for sale on Amazon and other Websites, while AT&T still has it listed for $199. It emerged after lackluster reports described the Torch's launch as underwhelming and "not hot enough."

Several reviewers noted that although the BlackBerry Torch 9800 was RIM's newest phone, it felt much like the older versions. Perhaps that's because BlackBerry users are believed not to like much change, and the Torch was seen more as a stop-gap measure than as something revolutionary for RIM. At any rate, it was unlikely to attract iPhone or Android fans.

BlackBerry Torch 9800
BlackBerry Torch 9800
That's not good news for RIM, which had only 3.4 percent share of the mobile market from April to June this year. RIM desperately needed a hit to keep its market share, but didn't really get one with the Torch. So, the drop in price may finally goose sales and make its share price and popularity rise.

But is it worth it? For businesses already enmeshed in the BlackBerry OS, it's a decent buy. The new BlackBerry 6 OS and new features, such as touchscreen display, are simply playing catch-up to Android and Apple platforms--and the phone isn't a threat to either in any way--but will give BlackBerry users more versatility. For some businesses who have already invested dearly in its infrastructure, the BlackBerry is a perfectly adequate smartphone and at $99, it may be a more attractive deal than starting from scratch.

However, the Android platform will likely be the mobile operating system of choice for most of the country, and companies should keep that in mind. But, should they keep investing in their older infrastructure, or follow the way the wind is already blowing?

If money is part of the equation, then businesses can also look at Verizon Wireless's buy-one-get-one-free promotions, which generally cater to Android phones. With BlackBerry, users are also saddled with AT&T, whose service and data plan pricing system can be problematic.

The Torch fire sales will likely boost sales, but probably only with existing BlackBerry customers undecided about jumping ship. Until RIM can come up with something truly revolutionary, it can only chase after the industry.

Barbara E. Hernandez can be reached or followed on Twitter at @bhern.

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