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New BlackBerry Z10 touchscreen has lots of catching up to do in U.S. market

Demand appears to be underwhelming so far for the new BlackBerry Z10, with no store lineups reported on the day the touchscreen smartphone made its debut in the U.S, according to analysts.

The launch in the U.S., considered to be a key market for BlackBerry, comes about six weeks after the smartphone began selling in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The new BlackBerry is now is available through major wireless carrier AT&T.

“I had to ask the salesperson, ‘Where is this phone?'” said telecom analyst Anil Doradla, who tried out a BlackBerry Z10 at an AT&Tstore in downtown Chicago.

“The placement of the phone is along with all the other phones. It’s not an exclusive placement.”

On Friday, shares in BlackBerry (TSX:BB), the Waterloo, Ont.-based company closed down eight per cent, or $1.33 per share at $15.19 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Edward Jones technology analyst Bill Kreher said he called 20 AT&T locations from New York to Los Angeles and found out no stores were sold out and each store had been given a small quantity of BlackBerry Z10s.

“We did not hear of any long lines or stock outs in any way,” Kreher said from St. Louis, Mo.

He said BlackBerry is facing a tough challenge in the U.S. market where smartphones are constantly being launched and features constantly upgraded.

Kreher said BlackBerry’s share of the U.S. market is less than five per cent.

“We just think the company faces long-term headwinds given the marketing prowess and technical capabilities of their competitors.”

Doradla, who works for firm William Blair & Co., said he also didn’t see any lineups and was told sales were small at the AT&T location he visited.

“We find it very difficult to believe consumers will flock to this phone and even for the enterprise users, the only reason people would be doing this (is) because they want to upgrade.”

The smartphone maker has lost significant share of the tech-savvy U.S. market where consumers have preferred to buy Apple’s iPhone and Android smartphones.

A keyboard version of the new BlackBerry Z10 isn’t expected to be available in the U.S. for another several months.