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Can Canada Jump-Start BlackBerry?

By Tim Brugger – May 18, 2013 at 3:15PM

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According to an analyst, the Canadian device maker is making significant strides on its home turf.

Unlike Nokia (NOK -0.23%), another mobile-phone maker that has new phones and a new OS and is in the early stages of fighting its way back to relevance, BlackBerry (BB -2.08%) has shared some good news of late. Its new Q5 smartphone, similar to the premium Q10 and complete with BlackBerry fans' favorite feature -- a physical keyboard -- could provide a significant sales boost. Now there's news from a Raymond James analyst that BlackBerry is making some serious inroads at home, and it's taken only a quarter to do it.

The good news continues
Q1 of this calendar year saw a doubling of BlackBerry's market share in Canada, in large part because of BlackBerry's Z10, the non-keyboard version of the BB10 OS smartphone. As per a Raymond James analyst, BlackBerry held a 6% share of the Canadian market in Q4, a ridiculously low figure given its once dominating position up North. By Q1 of this year, however, BlackBerry jumped to a whopping 13.5% share of the Canadian smartphone market -- in a quarter.

BlackBerry naysayers are quick to point out that its 13.5% market share in Q1 2013 remains woefully behind Canada's leading smartphone provider, Apple (AAPL -3.00%), with its 40.1% piece of the pie. But they're missing the point. More than doubling market share in a quarter is impressive, period. With BlackBerry clawing its way back from obscurity, that level of growth is doubly impressive and can lead to momentum going forward.

The aforementioned lower-priced Q5 will be available in Europe, as well as in emerging markets in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, and it fills a much-needed void in BlackBerry's product lineup. There were critics of the decision to open up BlackBerry's Messenger service, but making it available to Apple and Android smartphone users was the right decision for CEO Thorsten Heins to make. Simply pretending the smartphone world isn't dominated by iOS and Android doesn't make it true, so kudos to Heins for seeing the light.

Granted, press releases are often heavy on sales and light on specifics, but the list of clients either buying or continuing to test BB10-related smartphones continues to grow. ING, the City of New York's Department of IT, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and Ingram Micro are a few of the notable names BlackBerry is working with -- an impressive list.

Not all good news
Depending on which research you adhere to, BlackBerry either just barely held on to third position in the global smartphone OS market in Q1 (so says Gartner), or it fell to fourth place (so says IDC), behind Nokia's smartphone partner, Microsoft, by 0.03%. Either way, BlackBerry needs BB10 to hit its stride.

Delays in rolling out Q10 in the world's biggest smartphone market, the U.S., have hurt BlackBerry and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. As manufacturers continue to introduce upgraded phones, such as the Nokia Lumia and Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone, BlackBerry fans stateside are still awaiting the keyboarded Q10. Like Apple and its lack of new devices, in the fast-moving world of smartphones, each passing week without its new phone in the U.S. puts more pressure on BlackBerry.

When it's said and done
Challenges remain. Even the most diehard of BlackBerry bulls acknowledge that. But make no mistake: Growing market share at home -- without the benefit of its keyboard-featured Q10 mind you -- is impressive. Add the new mid-market Q5, and the BlackBerry Messenger for Apple's iOS and Android, and BlackBerry suddenly becomes a very intriguing growth investment alternative.

Fool contributor Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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