The US race is on: AT&T starts BlackBerry Z10 pre-orders on March 12

U.S. network operator T-Mobile had hoped to be the first in the country to sell the new BlackBerry(s bbry) Z10 handset, but AT&T(s t) may yet beat its peer to the punch. On Monday, AT&T announced it would accept pre-orders on March 12 for the Z10. The offer is open to new and current AT&T subscribers only with a consumer plan; corporate accounts will have to wait until March 22.
AT&T has set the price at $199.99 with contract for the Z10, which is the general going rate for any flagship phone. And as the first BlackBerry 10 handset, complete with competitive hardware, this surely is the BlackBerry flagship.
I’m inclined to agree, however, with Chris Davies at Slashgear, who thinks $200 for the Z10 may be too much. Sure, the BlackBerry faithful will be happy with this device at $200, but it’s a tougher sell at that price for those happy with an iPhone or Android handset. The platform still has some catching up to do in the app store, for example. Yes, you can sideload Android(s goog) apps, but the process is convoluted enough that most consumers aren’t likely to do so.
In terms of communications the Z10 surely excels, thanks to the BlackBerry Hub. That makes sense, given BlackBerry’s rich messaging history. And the gesture-based user interface is enjoyable to use. Is that, plus the BlackBerry name, worth $200 to a large U.S. audience? Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think; I suspect the Z10 would be a much better seller at $149.99 with contract.
This post was updated at 8:36 am to reflect that new customers can also pre-order the Z10.