Canadian Tire began issuing thousands of BlackBerry Q10 smartphones to corporate employees in Toronto on Monday after rolling out Z10 models weeks earlier.
The overwhelming majority of the company's 3,000 corporate users wanted the Q10 with its qwerty keyboard as a replacement for older Bold or Curve devices, said Eugene Roman, chief technology offer at Toronto-based Canadian Tire, in an interview. However, some are also asking for the Z10, with its touchscreen keyboard.
Canadian Tire bought the new devices for its employees, Roman said. The company isn't convinced that a Bring Your Own Device model, where workers buy their own smartphones to use at work, is secure enough. "BYOD is very interesting until the first security breach," Roman said. "I'm not a fan of BYOD. An email can send a virus into your core infrastructure. Right now, we think BYOD is interesting, but not ready for the main stream."
So far, hands down, the biggest value of the new Z10 and Q10 smartphones has been their long battery life, providing 10 to 12 hours on a single charge, Roman said. "With 10 to 12 hours of battery life, that's double of every other device we've tried," he said. "It's efficient on the network and still has good security. The battery life is the winner. I have a couple of iPhones, but I can't live on them."
Many workers are familiar with older BlackBerry smartphones and wanted the physical keyboard. Roman said he has used a BlackBerry Bold model for years and has been reluctant to replace it.
"I told them you'd have to pry the Bold from my cold dead hands, since it has served me extremely well, but the Q10 does it one better," he said. The Q10's 35 keys are each "just a shade bigger" than on the Bold "and I have big, fat thumbs."
Since Roman has a strong interest in following the quick-changing Canadian weather, he found he relies on the Q10's native weather app, which he has used for more than a full week, along with email and texting.
Canadian Tire also uses Balance, a dual-personality feature where work and personal data are kept in separate areas on the BlackBerry 10 operating system. If needed, an IT shop could wipe clean the work data from a lost or stolen device and leave the personal data intact. The company supports Balance on the Q10 and Z10 with a backend server running BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10.
"Balance is a good idea, and I started using it last week," Roman said. "It's quite interesting how it keeps your life simple. Everybody has a personal email, so my kids can send me messages there. I got insurance for my car and don't want that email going to my work email. So Balance makes things nice and clean. These smartphones are ports into the company."
Roman said he also likes the Hub concept of organising all email and texts and other incoming information into one universal in-box that can be revealed with a touch on the 3.1-in. touchscreen above the keyboard.
"The Q10 is all about the user experience, and I find that the Hub is extremely useful, that it organises my life and is like the old PDA, but the Q10 plays that role on steroids," he said.
Roman predicted the Q10 will be a "huge hit" with hard-core qwerty keyboard users. Already, many employees at the 1,700 Canadian Tire retail stores under various brands such as FGL Sports are requesting a new Z10 or Q10. "The Q10 is an amazing little device."
Canadian Tire has also launched a BlackBerry mobile app for consumers to browse the company's products online, locate stores and check product availability that received 20 million mobile visits last year. Customers can use BlackBerry smartphones to scan barcodes in the store to read reviews and other information.
The Z10 first became available in the U.S. in March and the Q10 is expected on four major U.S. carriers at the end of May at a suggested price of $249 plus contract, BlackBerry said. The Q10 first became available in Canada on May 1 for $199 with a three-year contract from wireless carriers Rogers, Bell Mobility and Telus.
BlackBerry has tried to build momentum for its newest smartphones with major customer wins, but hasn't revealed early sales figures for the Q10. In late March, BlackBerry said it shipped 1 million Z10s in the fourth quarter.
Among its corporate buyers of the new BlackBerry 10 smartphones, BlackBerry recently announced law firm Clifford Chance in the UK will issue 1,600 Z10s and Q10s to workers.