Nokia Unveils X3 Touch as BlackBerry Torch Gets Singed

Nokia (NOK) unveiled its type-and-touch X3 smartphone Tuesday, a device designed to appeal to indecisive consumers looking for a relatively inexpensive smartphone. But folks who fall into this camp may just as easily be swayed to consider Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry Torch, a recently launched type-and-touch handset that suffered a 50% price cut within a week after hitting the stores.


Prices for the BlackBerry Torch, which launched Aug. 12, were cut when began selling them for $99 with a two-year AT&T service plan. Although the price is a limited offer that runs through Aug. 31, investors were spooked pushing Research In Motion's (RIMM) shares down 1.1% percent on Tuesday to close at $50.25 on a day when the broader markets were up.

Typically manufacturers and retailers engage in deep discounting when a product isn't selling well and there's a surplus of inventory. Alternatively, they may cut prices as part of a special limited offer to prod shoppers into action and generate a herd mentality among others who may see the gadget and then want it. AT&T retail stores, however, continue to sell the BlackBerry Torch for $199 with a two-year contract.

For Research in Motion, Torch sales are progressing nicely but the handsets are not flying out the door like Apple's iPhone 4 or the recently launched Motorola Droid X, says Gleacher & Co. analyst Mark McKechnie, in a research note. He surmised that most of the sales are likely coming from existing BlackBerry customers.

Deutsche Bank analyst Jay Goldberg characterized the BlackBerry Torch as bringing nothing new or revolutionary to the table, except for a layout or display that easier for customers to maneuver.

Meanwhie, Nokia's X3, which is slated to hit the stores sometime this quarter, is expected to carry a retail price of 125 Euros ($161), making it a more expensive proposition than the discounted BlackBerry Torch for those seeking a keypad-touchscreen smartphone combo.

"The X3 will incrementally help Nokia," said Mark Sue, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets, noting it will help broaden their lineup of low to mid priced smart phones. He added Nokia is coming out with its high-end N8 phone later next month which will give the handset maker a two-prong approach for attacking the market.