You can get a Z10 in the U.S. now -- but it'll cost you $999

Solavei and GSM Nation begin online sales five weeks before other carriers

BlackBerry's Z10 went on sale today at the unsubsidized price of $999 for the first U.S. customers through wireless service provider Solavei and its retail partner GSM Nation.

The online offer comes about five weeks before the expected availability of the Z10 through the four major U.S. carriers -- Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

Online sales began at 8 a.m. ET, allowing customers to place an order online for the Z10 along with monthly service for $49 that offers unlimited voice, text and data, Solavei spokeswoman Kim Puckett said in an interview.

Solavei is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator based in Bellevue, Wash. It uses the T-Mobile network, including 4G, Puckett said.

Most unsubsidized smartphones sell for $600 to $700, putting the $999 price at a premium for the Z10, which has won praise from reviewers since it was introduced on Jan. 30 by BlackBerry.

The Z10, with its 4.2-in. touchscreen, runs the BlackBerry 10 operating system and is expected to sell for under $200 when subsidized by the largest carriers with a two-year contract.

The Z10 went on sale in the UK on Jan. 31 and in Canada on Feb. 5.

Puckett said the $999 price tag is what people should expect to pay for getting the phone more than a month before other major carriers in the U.S.

"I definitely see $1,000 is high [for an unsubsidized smartphone], but given it is available a month and a half in advance, it's not," Puckett said. "That's why if you really want it now, you might be willing to pay that much."

She said there was a "flurry of interest" in the Z10 offer early Monday, but had no details.

Solavei launched last September and has 120,000 members, according to a statement. The MVNO does not charge for membership and allows members to offset their monthly service costs by $20 a month for every three new members connected to them who sign up for service.

Online Z10 orders placed will ship to the buyer's home by Wednesday, Puckett said. The SIM card that allows activation over Solavei will be installed in the Z10 unit. The offer only applies to the black model, not the white one.

T-Mobile has been upping its no-contract and unsubsidized offers and recently said it will begin offering the iPhone 5 as well as the Z10 unsubsidized.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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