BlackBerry Torch discounted at Amazon

Research In Motion's new phone has sputtered out of the gate, giving rise to rumors of price cuts.

By Kim Peterson Aug 17, 2010 1:18PM

BlackBerry Torch. Credit: © 2010 Research In Motion LimitedWell, well, looks like we have some updating to do here. There were many reports today -- here and on other sites -- that Amazon(AMZN) and other retailers had cut the price of the BlackBerry Torch in half.

As it turns out, Amazon had been selling the Torch for $99.99 all along. (The phone still costs $199.99 on AT&T's site.) The online retailer tends to deeply discount some devices at launch, perhaps as a way of attracting buyers to its service plans (Amazon gets a commission from AT&T for selling plans, a source told The Wall Street Journal).

The Amazon-chops-Torch-price story got picked up, I think, because it followed days of analysts offering dire predictions about the way the phone has been selling. That led to more doubts about the future of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIMM).

Analysts at two companies predicted that RIM sold only about 150,000 Torches in the first weekend. Compare that with the 1.7 million iPhone 4s that Apple (AAPL) sold the first weekend after launch. (Though, as one reader correctly points out, the iPhone 4 was released in multiple countries at launch.)

Apple dominates the consumer market and BlackBerrys are a favorite of business customers (and companies are notoriously slow adopters). But the price cuts may show that the Torch -- which some observers had described as an "iPhone killer" -- is not the savior RIM had been hoping for in the smart-phone wars.


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Perhaps the biggest drag on Torch sales is that the phone is available only through AT&T (T), which doesn't exactly get raves. In fact, some people are likely avoiding the phone until it goes to another carrier that doesn't have so many dropped calls and data bottlenecks.

Are we witnessing the gradual decline of the BlackBerry from a top-of-the-line gadget to a mass-market has-been? That's what some observers think.

"The risk with RIM, as we've said repeatedly, is that it gets consigned to low end of the smart-phone market selling plenty of low-margin handsets," writes Jay Yarow at Business Insider.

"The low price for the Torch undermines the message from RIM that the Torch is a high-end product that commands a premium price," writes Spencer Ante at The Wall Street Journal. "And it will put pressure on other retailers to slash their prices."

At any rate, you can check out the $99.99 Torch price here at Amazon.
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