Verizon Wireless’ best chance at courting would-be iPhone buyers this holiday season: RIM’s new touchscreen BlackBerry Storm, which looks enough like Apple’s phone, might have better mobile email, has a removable battery, better camera (with video), and will likely cost the same $199 as the iPhone after carrier subsidy.
When will we hear more? The phone is expected to be unveiled this week, possibly tomorrow in London, according to a note published today by RBC analyst Mike Abramsky, who expects sales to begin the first week in November.
That can’t come soon enough: Yesterday, research firm NPD Group said that almost half of iPhone buyers who ditched rival carriers in July and August for exclusive carrier AT&T came from Verizon — significantly more than their relative share of the wireless market. As a result, we expect Verizon to heavily market the phone in the U.S. this holiday season to compete with the iPhone.
Will the Storm do iPhone numbers? No, but Abramsky’s sales expectations aren’t shabby: He expects RIM to ship 850,000 Storms in RIM’s fiscal Q3 and Q4, and 3-4 million in its first 12 months of sales.
If the phone is launched this week, RIM’s stock could get a bump: Abramsky notes that RIM (RIMM) shares traded up 5%-7% on recent product launches, like the Pearl Flip and Bold. Shares are down 5.4% today to $56.42, down 62% from RIM’s 52-week high.
Side note: Abramsky points out that the Storm won’t have wifi — a “Verizon requirement.” If true, this is silly. The iPhone’s wifi receiver makes the phone more useful and takes stress off the cellular network. And because iPhone owners (and probably Storm owners) are required to subscribe to an all-you-can-eat data plan anyway, selling a wifi phone shouldn’t cost the carrier a dime.
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