Newsflash: Lineups are not the defining factor for hot products

BlackBerry Z10 Lineups
By Chris Umiastowski on 8 Feb 2013 02:12 pm EST

Over the last week we've seen a variety of reports on the sales of BlackBerry Z10 handsets. Some people say they've seen lineups. Others say not so much. And still others apparently think that if you don't generate lineups, your product is not in demand.

Case in point: The New York Times published this post on Wednesday. The headline of the article is "Lackluster Start for BlackBerry's New Phone in Canada".

Two main pieces of evidence appear to have driven this conclusion. Exhibit A: The Bell store in Ottawa's Rideau Center sold only 5 Z10s upon opening, and was quiet by 10:30 a.m. along with a Telus store, and smaller kiosks and electronic boutiques. Yet the Apple store had 20 customers in it. Exhibit B: Other media stories suggest there weren't lineups at most stores.

I'm puzzled. I just don't get how someone can write a story about "Lackluster" sales for a device based on early morning sales at a single Bell store, supported by the idea that there weren't many lineups at other stores across the country. I'm especially puzzled by this considering that Rogers was quoted saying, "We've seen great interest in BlackBerry 10 from our customer base" and also considering that every major carrier setup an effective online pre-order service.

But let's step back for a second. Are lineups a measure of success we should be looking at? I don't think so. It's not that cut and dry.

Here's a postulate I'd like to offer: Lineups usually form when more people want something than is potentially unavailable. Supply is thought to be less than demand. The people who lineup believe there is scarcity at play. When lineups do not form it's because this condition is not true.

Seems obvious, right? That's why it's called a postulate. It's based on logic and doesn't require proof.

So does a lineup mean you have a smash hit? No. Lineups just mean people want a product now and are worried they'll have to wait a bit longer if they don't lineup. Often times these lineups are good indicators for success.

Apple has conditioned a lot of people to believe that lineups are essential to success. Clearly the NYT has been indoctrinated into this faulty way of thinking. But much more often a consumer electronics product becomes a hit without us ever witnessing crazy lineups.

Look at Samsung. When they release a new Galaxy phone we tend not to hear about any significant lineups. In fact Samsung goes out of its way to make fun of Apple people for standing in lines. Remember this commercial? (embedded below)

Yes, Samsung sees lineups at some stores, some of the time. I'm not saying Samsung never sees customers get in a line. There are always some lines just like there were for the BlackBerry Z10.

But the absence of lineups are not a useful indicator of success. Have you ever seen someone write about the imminent failure of the Galaxy S3 because most stores had no lineups? Of course not.

There are countless other examples in the consumer electronics field. Lineups for new gadgets are actually not that common. They're only common for iPhones and iPads.

The evidence speaks for itself. Samsung, who is the #1 smartphone vendor in the world, doesn't generate the kind of lineup buzz that Apple-indoctrinated media have come to expect. If they don't need lines, why does BlackBerry?

It's time for people to clue in here. Yes, it's nice to see lineups. It's nice to see people so excited about your products that they'll wait in line to avoid waiting or to be among the first few to own one (novelty).

Lineups are usually a good sign. But the inverse is not true. All Apples are fruits. All fruits are not apples.

Reader comments

Newsflash: Lineups are not the defining factor for hot products


yup, sadly this only re-inforces the `protectionist` stance that the world periceives of the US since the apple v samsung lawsuit, and now the media bias against a non US company.

im not saying i agree or disagree with the views (although obviously id never tar everyone with the same brush), but the mainstream US media and judicial system certainly isnt helping.

I wrote to Ian Austin and Editors at the NYT (they forwarded my email to Austin)pointing out how biased the report was and that the mention of the Apple store showed the bias.

He wrote to me and essentially said that his article was factual and that the headline editor made the headline not him.

Kind of lame I thought. The headline editor's job is to capture the essence/ intent of the article. I also question his mention of the Apple store. Since Apple sells many products other than phones at their store why even mention it. Why not report how many people were in Loblaws which also sells phones and other products?

Austin also told me that BlackBerry had complained about the article.

The fact that the NYT published this crap does show what an uphill battle BlackBerry faces in the US.

We will no doubt see similar reports when (I hope it is when and not if) the Z10 drops here.

You're missing the point of Chris's article... While the NYT reporter may have been factually correct about the general lack of lineups, his conclusion about there being low demand based on the lack of lineups was incorrect.

With lots of stores in Canada, you can sell tons of Z10s without having any lineups if people don't feel that they must lineup before opening (due to perceived scarcity) to have a chance to get the phone.

If there are 2000 stores in Canada, each being open for 9 hours per day, you could probably even sell over 100k phones in a day without creating much in the way of lineups, as that would only be 5-6 phones per hour per store.

Troy ... It seems you can stand listening to an opposing view. Youor Mommy must have a hard time with you.

First off, learn to spell please. 2nd, many have opted for online reservations delivered to your homes. I guess they don't deliver to your magical forest? jk

As everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Ah Troy, its good to read your posts again. You've been a bit silent lately ... probably doing a bit of juvi time?

I didn't line up for mine but I did go just after opening because I didn't want to have to wait til lunch and I was right to. They were sold out by lunch.

I didn't need to wait in line. Pre-order, track UPS and pick up after work at MY leisure. Sounds a lot better than waiting in line for hours.

Here in Brevard County of Florida, there are never lines outside for Androind or iPhone releases...only long lines we get is during Black Friday or a new Call Of Duty game.

Its unbelievable someone would actually wait in line for a product. I am a huge BB fan but I would never wait in a line let alone preorder one because whats the point? I can wait a week...

NYT... isn't that the same garbage of a "newspaper" who were happy to show off the Dev Alpha A shown at BB Jam last year as the new BB10 phone when Thorsten clearly indicated it was a unit for developers? They had to retract that story. Morons.

It's pretty crappy that a store would have only five units available for sale. A walk through one of my local malls found none of the kiosks had a single BB10 phone and I saw just one dummy unit. How are you going to sell something that's unavailable to consumers who may be interested in a product? I found this same issue when the PB was initially launched. I couldn't find it anywhere. I called a local Rogers corporate store and was told they were sold out of the ten they were given. TEN?? WTF!? This one store should have been given at least thirty. It was pretty obvious from people who wanted to preorder the phone that there is a demand for it.

You have an excellent memory!  Yes, it was the NYT who treated the dev alpha as a new device.  They slammed it because you couldn't even make phone calls.  Totally clueless.  Same writer too.  There are some things you just can't fix.  

The real question is would this post have been written if there were lines of 100 people at each store?

Easy answer.  Think about it.  If there were 100 people in line, nobody would be writing about the lack of lineups, and I wouldn't have to explain to people the obvious logic that I used.  Just remember.  All apples are fruits.  Not all fruits are apples.  The inverse isn't always true.  So damn obvious, yet so easy for people to miss if they act like and fail to use their brains.

I am shocked! Absolutely shocked that the NYT has been indoctrinated and does not perform what used to be called journalism. Oh wait. Not shocked. The other one.... Good to see another stellar article Chris and all at CB. Keep it up. You've got more merit than the Times at this point.

I wish THIS article could be pasted on all those other articles' comment boards!

So true! What irked me the most about those "attempts at journalism" was that it was a store in Ottawa, in the morning during a work day. CMON! At least be smart enough to choose TO, the largest city, and check out a more student-populated area if you want to see lineups. That's like taking a lineup poll in Bangor, Maine.

PS, I love that commercial -- so funny

BB10 is running the so called big boys out of town and that's the naked truth. Everywhere you go in London you hear people talking about it.

Lets not forget the speed of businesses either. Even ours has yet to buy one. It takes time for them to do anything like this.

However we are looking at getting 10 within the next few weeks, and more when the Q10 comes out.. Everyone here is buzzing with excitement from the new phones. We are currently getting our BES10 running, and then we'll be going full speed.

Businesses don't wait in a line. We have the phones come to us when we choose.

You cannot have lineups when it was all about Pre orders and that way you could pick it up on your time after work good thinking having preorder And way to go Blackberry on the way back to the top great phone I am switching from the iPhone way to bring out a better phone Blackberry you've done it

Does the NYT understand how cold it is in Canada? Why tf would any sane human being line up in this frigid cold.?which dumbass would do that......?you know what? Never mind. We all know the answer and to that.

Oh it's not as simple as that.  The guy who wrote the story lives in Ottawa.  The Bell store is INSIDE the mall.  So he sees no line and concludes no line = no success.  That's the faulty thinking I wanted to discuss.

TWO ADDITIONAL points (in addition to the article) ALL of the talking heads also failed to think about (right: thinking isn't in their job description: talking IS!!) is that:
last week, as it is this week, it was EFFING WINTER here in Canada, with average outside temperatures between 25°F (high) and about 5°F (night) ...
I don't know ANYONE who would line up OUTSIDE for A N Y T H I N G in this weather ... ?
This isn't Miami or SanFran, where lining up in February means wearing a light jacket to stay comfortable.

MOST BlackBerry users either pre-ordered or thought "I'll pick one up on Saturday" when I'm at the Mall anyway ...
We're neither unemployed, nor students and standing in line for most of us Thinking Consumers (i.e. BlackBerry by Choice - because we've THOUGHT about it !!) is reserved for i)buying Coffee and ii) disposing of the coffee again an hour later. Occasionally also at the bank, for US customs when crossing the border, to get on the rides at Disney, and either at beer & liquor stores OR at the bar for same reason (then see earlier "coffee" point, above).

As for "me" there's no effin' way I'll line up for anything else ... especially ANY item I expect to be able to 'get' a day, week or month later.

I couldn't agree more with the article and was actually yelling at the TV when the morons were talking about "lack of lineups" ... blah, blah. blah, .... STFU!!!!

Counterpoint for argument #1: in Canada, people would line up no matter what temperature for NHL playoff tickets, free Timmy Ho's, and beer lol

ignoring this Fabola is part of copetencia that are shaking before the great success that has and will continue z10

I absolutely love reading your articles, Chris. They are always well written with an educated view on things. Keep it up!

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what Apple has done to the mobile industry. Dumbed down phone for a dumbed down society....

I think some people are just rooting for BlackBerry to come crashing and burning. But too bad BlackBerry has loyal enthusiasts like me, that they aren't going anywhere. Long Live BB <3

Totally agree with this article. A line-up does not make a product. When I pre-ordered my BBZ10 online with Rogers, I was number 2,390 in line! When it came out on Tuesday I was like, "I'm not waiting that long to get one!" so I ran down to a Rogers store on Bay St. in downtown Toronto. There were probably about 5 people in front of me. The clerk said that they got in 50 phones and within an hour they were down to their last 10. I'm a BB fan but had been contemplating switching to a Galaxy if I didn't like the Z10...but when I saw it at the launch I was sold. Love it!

People who wait in lines to get a new phone have far too much time on their hands. I waited until the second day just to ensure there were no lineups. If they sold out...I would rather wait than wait 2 or 3 hours in line. Quite frankly I don't understand the Isheep mentality.

Nice post. So true.

Where do these apple lines form too? I dont think they release products in such a wide distribution as RIM did, with as many carriers. I'm sure theres only a handful of apple stores that have the big line.

I stand in line to get into bars sometimes and I feel like an idiot and get pretty pissed at how long I have to wait. Its amazing apple has created this culture where people think its cool. I have a feeling its dying though since apples plateaued and haven't released any meaningful upgrades since the iPhone4 (and even thats debateable) and people are starting to catch on (wake up -great marketing campaign).

Its a good postulate. What other products to people line up for? And initial demand says nothing about longevity. I think Frank Boulben/BB knows they have a good product to market and is thinking about the long haul, word of mouth from this great devices will be the best way to sell more, and initial lineups will prove rather meaningless aside from the sheep-buyers.

I WORKED FOR SPRINT AND YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THE LINE FOR THE PALM PRE LOL, LIKE 60 people at our store... You should have seen the line the next day for returns lol. Lines don't mean anything its the user experience so far good reviews on bb10 not surprised

Be patient and wait for the official sales numbers people. Everything else is just speculation.

After I read the NY Times article, clearly they felt it was completely acceptable to generalize based on such a minuscule sample. So I suppose it's perfectly fine for me to do the same. I don't want To read more garbage like this so I deleted their NY Times app from my Z10. Clearly their articles are all this bad.

Oh great, now they'll see a drop in active users of their app and assume BlackBerry must be the problem, not their yellow journalism lol

lol ..... that is true ... " People are dropping their apps from app world "

These bozo ( like Jim Cramer says ) reporters will eat up anything just to make a story.

Good point. When Z10 becomes available in the US, I will order mine online. If others stand in line to please the press, have fun!

Yes the Z10 had bad sales? LOL, when will people learn how to write proper articles based on FACTS not Opinions that they try and make into facts. How about the massive Pre-Orders that were shipped to PEOPLE? In less than 24hrs. Rogers had over 1300 pre-orders for the Z10 as soon as they announced they were taking Pre-Orders.

Bell and Telus had the same strong pre-order numbers. That is in less than a DAY.
At the end of the day, it's quite evident Apple, Google and Samsung along with these none fact based articles are all afraid of the new BlackBerry 10.

Why is this? Could it be because the new BlackBerry 10 brings new innovation, the best hands down QNX OS, speed, support, flow, balance, hub, peek etc., it's quite obvious they are Afraid, and now we can expect nonesense advertisements telling people that BB10 is nothing new lol, good luck, because people are not stupid. All you have to do is try the Z10 once, and you are HOOKED......

I would have lined up in the morning but see, I work and where I work is important enough that they would laugh at anyone lining up for a piece of tech. I was going to go at lunch time but all the stores close to my workplace were already sold out... but still, no line ups so I guess it's a huge fail and BlackBerry is going out of business...*facepalm*

Btw, I read this on my Z10's browser in reader mode... fantastic! I love this beast! I really feel sorry for my American brothers and sisters... patience friends... its worth the wait

Thank you for your kind sympathy. Makes the waiting slightly less painful (big, sad sigh here) LOL. A month shouldn't seem that long, but it sure does somehow ...

In reference to the NYT Exhibit A - "Exhibit A: The Bell store in Ottawa's Rideau Center sold only 5 Z10s upon opening, and was quiet by 10:30 a.m. along with a Telus store, and smaller kiosks and electronic boutiques. Yet the Apple store had 20 customers in it." Apple stores sell more than just iPhones. They also sell the MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, MacBook Air and Mac Pro along with the iPod, iPhone, iPad and iPad Mini. Judging the number of people in a cell phone store versus a technology store is also comparing Apples to BlackBerries.

Nice article, Chris. Another piece to consider is the BB user vs. users of most other devices. My guess is that population is a little different in various countries. However, who is the average BB user in UK and Canada (knowing there are plenty of exceptions)? They might be slightly older and higher achieving so are educated and have jobs, are technically articulate enough to preorder, and would feel silly standing in line for a phone. Honestly, my kids stood in line to see a Harry Potter movie, but you would never catch me in one. I actually think the line is as much about the social experience of being with fellow fans as it is about getting the product first. Its a little party, and the type of fun that appeals to a certain demographic. There is nothing wrong with it at all. I just don't think it fits a lot of BB users in those countires.

Meanwhile, we have seen plenty of examples of pathetic "journalism" in the last couple of years. The story is as credible as the one about the person with two heads that just landed in a spaceship you can read in the tabloids standing in line at the grocery store. The author must have been absent on "check your facts", "objectivity" and "ethics" days in class.

We are all guilty of being biased..

Especially when we justify our personal preferences against others. I am a huge Blackberry fan but left them a few years back when I felt they weren't going anywhere for my needs and Apple was. Android.. Oh hell no, felt like I was in a sea of menu's upon sub menu, upon sub menu just to change a simple setting which an egg on his face sales person trying to sway me from my iPhone 5 upgrade experienced first hand in his Samsung Galaxy III demo. I am past the tinkering geek stage of my life, the only slogan I need to describe my phone choice is "it works" and "no fuss"

But point I am trying to make is we all have our needs and tastes, and its always evolving. We measure what we are willing to endure for a personal choice so to line up for a product is not a measure of its success but most likely a indication of a companies success in filling a specific need for a collective of individuals. We all have different tastes and its something we need to accept, why do we always feel we need to assert and defend it.

I've never observed a lineup of people waiting to by a copy of the New York Times. Does this mean they are failing and will likely go out of business?

My thought is that the reporter is upset because he owns Apple stock.... ;)

The reason there were no lineups for the z10 is because, unlike iphone users, Blackberry users have jobs...

Spoke with a sales rep at the local Costco (Wireless Wave) Thursday afternoon. They had 3 left of their initial allocation of 50. Biggest issue was having the right quantity of Z10's locked to either Bell/Virgin or Rogers/Fido. Apparently very few left at other Costco's.

Former BlackBerry users were an easy sale. As expected a tougher sale to non-BlackBerry users.

Just as importantly this sales rep was pumped about the Z10 and well informed about its features. Obviously BlackBerry has done a good job of making sure reps have some training (I spent a lot of my working life training reps in retail distribution channels).

One potential customer came in because Costco had inventory and he was number 3,xxx in line for getting a "reserved" unit shipped from Fido.

Best indicator at the moment is BlackBerry's statement that the day resulted in sales 50% better than any previous product launch.

Jim Courtney
Editor and Publisher
Voice On The Web

You made some good points, and I do believe that your correct. However I do believe the line ups on launch day are a good indicator of general interest/excitment for a product.

No one can deny the scope of an iPhone launch. It is a hugely popular device that brings many people to brave long lines to have one of the first. I myself have been overly excited about new iPhone launches in the past. The success of the Z10, Q10, and BB10 platform was never going to be seen immediately on launch day. They will need time to get into the hands of BB loyalists and reviewers and be seen and used by those with other devices. Once they get their hands on these devices and see firsthand the new OS and experience what it has to offer, then the converts will come. iOS is 6yrs old and Android has bugs. That being said, no one was going to drop their iPhone or Android based on one keynote presentation amid negative speculation and alarmist reports by the tech and mass media. This will take some time to mature, just like a good investment. Money and time, the key to BB10 success. And yes, I did buy some BB stock and plan on acquiring the Q10 here in the U.S. in order to do my part.

I love this board, so knowledgeable. So based. US checkin' in and I can't wait to get my BB10, and I don't care what any punk arse NYT writer says. Excuse my language 23yr old black man from Philadelphia signing in. BB10 4ever LETS GO! Flow=SWAG

Umi makes a bigger mistake, though, in assuming that the NYT is even bothering to make a good faith effort to report honestly. This isn't an example of an anti-BlackBerry bias; it's an example of poor and sloppy journalism. The Times has gotten good with this for a while now, and has been resting on its reputation for decades.

Thank you so much Kevin, I've been thinking exactly the same about the Apple/Samsung differences and how that relates to Z10 launch sales too!

Great to see it written about in such an informative and widely distributed way as this.

Most reporters are either 24-36 hours too late in the same old regurgitation gathered from other reporters. These reporters who sit behind their desks re-hashed from other news reports of the day. They are next in line to go in terms of redundancy. Live event reporting or live tweeting seems to be the fad of today's event....

It's pathetic how Apple has a grip on the media & influence their thinking. I wonder how many of these ppl in the mainstream media have actually tried other device brands & also wonder if these ppl have received free products from Apple. CNET is terrible for being bias against everything that is not Apple, it's absolutely pathetic for a company who reports on Tech to act this way. I absolutely hate Apple & their products for many many reasons but if they come out with something good I'll give them credit where it is due. Will Apple fans do the same, in most of the cases