BlackBerry Torch Fails to Ignite

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Despite being touted as  the “best BlackBerry ever,” Research in Motion’s (Stock Quote: RIMM) latest smartphone, the Torch 9800, isn’t setting wallets ablaze.

Estimates by RBC Capital Markets and Stifel Nicolaus say that no more than 150,000 devices sold over the phone’s first weekend on the market. Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL), in comparison, sold 1.7 million iPhones during the device’s first weekend on sale.

Another bad portent for the latest BlackBerry is that online retailer Amazon elected to sell the new BlackBerry at half of its list price. The Torch 9800 was priced at $199 with a new two-year contract at AT&T (Stock Quote: T), but was available on Amazon’s website for $99.

Others smaller online retailers have followed suit and are selling the Torch 9800 for $99. Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT) is charging $179.99 for the BlackBerry with a new two-year contract and analysts are predicting that AT&T will cut the Torch’s price to make it more competitive.

"The device will ultimately have to sell in the marketplace side-by-side with Apple's iPhone," Sanjiv Wadhwani, analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, tells CNN. "To sustain U.S. sell-through momentum into the November quarter, we believe the price of $199 on contract will have to fall."

The 16 GB model of the iPhone 4 currently retails for $199.

Despite its lukewarm public reception, the Torch 9800 received largely favorable reviews from industry experts. The Torch 9800 is the first BlackBerry powered by RIM’s new operating system BlackBerry 6, which features new universal search functionality, social network aggregation, an enhanced multimedia player and a WebKit-based browser that is HTML-5 compatible. You can check out this review from TheStreet’s Scott Moritz and Gary Krakow for more details.

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