BlackBerry 10 smartphones will not need BlackBerry data plans

While it's still early days for the BlackBerry Z10, which is now available in UK and some other European countries as well as Canada in North America, BlackBerry claims that Z10 sales are exceeding expectations. According to Digital Spy, BlackBerry UK Managing Director Stephen Bates told developers at BlackBerry Jam Europe that the Z10 has sold out at some UK retailers just a few days after launch, though he didn't offer numbers. "The response we've seen exceeded all of our launch partners' expectations. Customers are choosing to buy the BlackBerry Z10 in large numbers," said Bates.

Peter Misek, Managing Director, Jefferies & Company, a global investment bank, and who is respected as an analyst in the smartphone and technology space, has reported that the white Z10 is seeing widespread sell-out in the UK, with stocks limited for the black Z10 too. Considering that reported yesterday that grey market prices for unlocked Z10s without warranty from units purchased in Europe are already shooting past the Rs 80,000 mark despite it being clear that RIM should launch the Z10 in India in a few weeks and the actual price may be close to or a little over half of Rs 80,000, it does show that interest in the Z10 is very strong.

The BlackBerry Z10 is a full touchscreen phone running on BB10

The BlackBerry Z10 is a full touchscreen phone running on BB10


All of this though begs the question—what about the cost of using the new BlackBerry smartphone? Because 3G data no longer comes cheap anywhere in the world and with Indian operators increasing tariffs as they need to pay up heavy license fees, 3G data may actually become more expensive in India.

Traditionally, BlackBerry smartphones have needed BlackBerry data plans and in India, plans such as the BBM-only plan or the BBM + E-mail plan offered by operators are popular amongst youth. For instance, in Mumbai, Vodafone offers a BBM only plan for as little as Rs 129 a month on prepaid and postpaid while a BIS 299 plan offers email and instant messaging for Rs 299 a month, whereas Rs 399 gets you the full BlackBerry deal.

Of course, enterprise plans that connect to BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), which are encrypted without access even to government security agencies and require a BES server within your organisation, are far more expensive at around Rs 800-900 a month. And if you had to switch from any other smartphone to BlackBerry or vice-versa, you needed to ditch your regular data plan and sign up for a BlackBerry plan, or vice-versa.

But from reports from Canada and the UK, where operator pricing details are out, it seems like the days of BlackBerry specific plans are over and that any regular data plan will do. BlackBerry fansite has a detailed Z10 Buyers Guide for Canada and it reveals that operators are offering standard data plans in four tiers ranging from 150MB to 5GB. Most of the 150MB plans cost $50-55 with calls and text allowances and go up to $93.5-100 for 5GB data and unlimited national calls and text messages within Canada. Interestingly, also reports that users with existing BlackBerry plans can continue to use those for the Z10.

Similar tiered data plans are available in the UK and EE, the only operator to offer 4G in the UK, is currently offering plans starting with 500MB of data and going up to 20GB.

So what will this mean for India? While we asked operators and BlackBerry India, everyone chose to keep their cards close to their chests, but if BlackBerry plans are no longer needed, then it might mean lower monthly costs for high-end BlackBerry users and higher-costs for low-end BlackBerry users. Confused? Here's the explanation: If all the Z10 needs is a regular data plan, then anyone upgrading from a BBM-only or cheaper E-mail + IM BlackBerry plan will have to pay more since regular data plans, especially on 3G, are far more expensive. And BBM and only E-mail + IM plans may not be on offer with the Z10 anyway, going by plans available in the UK and Canada. But on the flip side, I doubt anyone with a BBM-only or basic E-mail + IM plan will be the target audience for the Z10, which is aimed at the highest strata of smartphone buyers.

And while BlackBerry was renowned earlier for its compression technologies that ensured BlackBerry smartphones consumed the least amount of data since all traffic went through BlackBerry's dedicated servers, it's unclear yet whether this would be the case for the new services offered on the Z10. If not, it would mean the Z10 would consume as much data as a regular high-end Android or iOS smartphone.

For high-end plan users, and especially those who use 3G along with their BlackBerry plan, the lack of insistence on a BlackBerry plan may mean more money stays in their wallets and they can switch devices (say from Android to BlackBerry) easily with no loss of service thanks to changes in data plans. To illustrate, look at Vodafone's current BlackBerry offerings in Mumbai where BIS with 1GB 3G data costs Rs 599 with charges of Rs 749 and Rs 849 for 2GB and 3GB data respectively. A regular 1GB 3G data plan costs Rs 250 while 2GB comes for Rs 450 and 3GB for Rs 650. Considering the fact that all data used on the Z10 will be regular 3G data, a 2-3GB data plan should do for an average user, which means rather than Rs 749 paid earlier for a BIS + 2GB 3G data plan, a 3G data plan will come for Rs 650.

And if is right, then existing users should be able to choose what they want—to stay on their old BlackBerry plans (as long as they are not ultra cheap BBM-only or E-mail + IM) or shift to regular data plans.

If you're a BlackBerry user and looking to upgrade to the Z10, would you stick with your old BIS plan or choose a regular 3G plan now? What do you think operators should price BlackBerry Z10 plans at? Do you think it’s a great idea to get rid of BlackBerry-only plans and move to regular data plans that can be used on any smartphone? Tell us!

Published Date: Feb 06, 2013 17:01 PM | Updated Date: Feb 06, 2013 17:01 PM