ABU DHABI // Hundreds flocked to get their hands on the latest BlackBerry last night as it finally went on sale in the UAE.
Loyal fans of the smartphone brand visited Etisalat branches for the new Q10 model but mostly only those who had ordered were successful.
The telecoms company was also offering half-price BlackBerry service packages for six months, cutting the cost of a global roaming package to just Dh150 a month.
The handset is BlackBerry's second new device this year - the touchscreen Z10 was released in February.
The new model has a smaller touchscreen but also offers a full keyboard - a feature popular with fans of the brand.
Both handsets use the company's latest operating system, BB10.
"We believe the Q10 will meet the expectations of business and personal users, providing a perfect balance between work and personal life," said Khaled El Khouly, chief marketing officer at Etisalat.
"The tools available on the device are revolutionary and have unquestionably set a new benchmark in the evolution of the smartphone."
Shoppers at Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall were among the first to buy their Q10 handsets when the delivery arrived just after 6pm yesterday.
Samir Mohammed was buying the handset for his son.
"All of his friends use BlackBerry so he had to have the new one - they all use BBM [BlackBerry Messager]," he said. "He first wanted the Z10 but then changed his mind and wanted to wait a bit longer because of the keyboard on this one.
"I decided to get him the phone for doing well in his studies."
Hamada Mohamed, from BlackBerry's field marketing team, also attended the launch.
"People are really excited about the Q10, more so than the Z10 I think. We've got a huge turnout," he said.
But the Etisalat outlet's limited stock dwindled quickly.
Mohammed Shalash, manager of business sales at the branch, said staff had been told to expect many more people than usual for the launch.
"We are very happy to be among the first to offer this phone," he added.
The smartphone market is competitive, with Samsung and HTC also offering new, top-of-the-range handsets.
The BlackBerry Q10 costs Dh2,699, the same as the HTC One and cheaper than the Galaxy S4 4G LTE at Dh2,749.
The Galaxy S4 launched in the UAE on Saturday, while the HTC One hit the shelves last Thursday.
Samsung mobiles are popular in the UAE and account for about 40 per cent of the market. But strong sales are expected for the Q10, thanks to features such as BBM being popular with residents here.
The keyboard is potentially the handset's biggest selling point.
Once ubiquitous on smartphones, keyboards have become rare with most manufacturers favouring touchscreen devices.
Matthew Reed, the principal analyst for the Middle East and Africa at Informa Telecoms and Media said: "The new BlackBerry devices are certainly attractive. BlackBerry has made a pretty good return to the smartphone market, their devices are strong.
"However, it is just such a competitive market generally and we are seeing an increasingly impressive range of devices. The bar is constantly rising.
"There is still a demand for keyboards. Some people have got used to [touchscreen] but it's not for everyone. It is a personal thing and perhaps it is more suited to business use, for people who are typing more emails."