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Early BlackBerry Z10 sales may not have been so hot after all

The sellouts in the U.K. may have been attributed more to supply issues than high demand, according to one analyst.

The BlackBerry Z10.
Josh Miller/CNET

BlackBerry may not want to wave that victory flag just yet.

The early word is that sales of the new BlackBerry Z10 in the U.K. have been impressive, with some stores reporting sellouts. But Michael Walkley, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, said that initial sales may be more mixed than they first appeared.

"Limited initial supply was cited as the reason for early post-launch stock-outs at some carrier stores versus overwhelming demand," Walkley said in a research note issued today.

With the success or failure of the BlackBerry Z10 weighing heavily on the fate of the company, industry watchers are keen to glean any signs of progress from the phone. The indications of initial sell-outs were enough to send BlackBerry's stock up over the last two days. BlackBerry shares are currently up 1.8 percent to $16.31.

Walkley, however, isn't so optimistic about sales. In a survey of U.K. stores, he found that most locations got around 15 units, and sold them out over the first two to three days, which lead to sellouts and low inventory.

"While we are impressed with the features of the new BB10 OS and Z10 smartphone, we believe BlackBerry has only closed the gap with more mature smartphone OS platforms and offers limited differentiating services or features to win back customers from more mature ecosystems," Walkley said.

For example, while many store sales representatives acknowledged the impressive improvement of BlackBerry 10 over the older operating system, many still recommended the iPhone or Galaxy S3 over the Z10, he said. More worrisome, he added, was that many of the representatives complained they didn't receive enough sales training on the phone, and were uncomfortable using its different user interface.

The early read on the Z10's sales performance comes amid higher scrutiny of initial sales of marquee smartphones. Industry observers paid careful attention to early sales of the Lumia 900 and Lumia 920 at AT&T. The initial sell-outs of the Lumia 920 were originally attributed to high demand, but it turned out supply was also an issue in that case.

With the similarly new BlackBerry Q10 potentially seeing a delay until May or June, there's even more pressure on the Z10 to do well.

BlackBerry hasn't provided any early sales figures, as the phone just went on sale in the U.K. on Thursday, and won't launch in the U.S. until sometime in the middle of March. CNET has contacted BlackBerry for any early sales estimates, and we'll update the story when the company responds.

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