BlackBerry Bold. Click to enlarge.
Retailers in Japan are pulling the BlackBerry Bold from store shelves over concerns that the smartphones are prone to overheating while charging.
BlackBerry manufacturer Research in Motion (RIM) told InternetNews.com that it voluntarily halted sales of the device while it works with the Bold’s exclusive Japanese carrier, NTT DoCoMo, to investigate why users have reported unusually hot temperatures.
The news marks another blow for the Bold, which went on sale in Japan last week through NTT DoCoMo, the country’s largest wireless carrier. The smartphone, seen by many as RIM’s (NASDAQ: RIMM) answer to the popular Apple iPhone, got off to a rocky start in November after shipping six months late in the U.S. But it ultimately proved lucrative for RIM, which attributed much of a fourth-quarter spike in sales to the unit.
With sales of the Bold now suspended in Japan, however, RIM may not be able to expect a repeat performance there just yet.
The company told InternetNews.com that the overheating problem has affected only a small number of its devices, and has not resulted in fires or injuries.
“While the temperatures appear to have remained within the safety range of regulatory standards, RIM and NTT DoCoMo are voluntarily suspending sales of this specific model in Japan pending further examination,” a RIM spokesperson told InternetNews.com.
“Quality is a priority for both NTT DoCoMo and RIM and we sincerely apologize to our customers for any inconvenience,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson declined to confirm a Reuters report that said the Bold had sold 4,000 units since its debut last week, and of those, 30 purchasers had complained about the high temperatures while charging.
It’s not yet clear what’s causing the problem. RIM said that an initial investigation determined that the overheating isn’t related to the device’s battery. The company also said the problem does not appear to be affecting devices sold in other markets.
A spokesperson for AT&T, the Bold’s exclusive U.S. carrier, declined to comment on whether it has seen similar overheating problems.
The news marks a setback for RIM after the company reported brisk sales of the Bold in the U.S. For its third fiscal quarter ending Nov. 29, the company reported $2.78 billion in revenues, a 66 percent spike compared to the previous year. It also said it 6.7 million BlackBerry devices during the quarter.
RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie attributed the gain in part to the Bold’s arrival earlier in the month, which resulted in the biggest single day of subscriber signups in its history, he said.
That success aimed to position RIM to stem the booming growth of Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone. Like the Apple device, the BlackBerry Bold features integrated GPS and 802.11 Wi-Fi, along with high-speed 3G wireless connectivity — RIM’s first handset with the technology.
It also signaled that the Bold may have been in position to rebound after a six month delay in shipping. Some reports claimed that network problems with AT&T had slowed down the Bold’s progress during testing and certification.
AT&T and Apple have been criticized for similar network glitches that impacted Apple iPhone 3G performance.