Blackberry Z10. Phony or Bad data? Either way, it’s a minefield.

Is it possible that more phones were returned than shipped?

Smoke could be seen rising from BlackBerry (fka RIM) corporate HQ this past week after an equities research firm announced that more of the new Z10 smartphones were being returned in some markets than the number sold.

The original news from The Wall Street Journal has now widely circulated on the Internet claiming extremely poor customer reaction to the Z10. The claim from Boston analyst firm Detwiler Fenton is that more phones have been returned than sold.

On its face, this is not believable. To the BlackBerry question of whether the data and underlying methodology used in the analysis are simply faulty or there was a sinister conspiracy to undermine the company and its publicly traded stock, ten years ago I would have had a clear answer. Today, it has become murkier.

In the time of more structured and centralized news reporting, more questions would have been raised by a ridiculous claim that more products were returned than sold. Is that even possible? News people used to be more cynical. They would have asked the obvious question.

But in today’s media climate, readers are often willing victims of bizarre information – poorly researched, parroted and even planted news. (If I sound like a grumpy old man, you are using a better analytical technique than the Detwiler Fenton analyst.) In an earlier century, I would have said, “Bad data.” Today, I will wait for the securities commissions’ investigations.

The Internet puts an enormous volume of information at our fingertips. It is a potential gold mine, but readers need to maintain vigilance to wade through the incessant waves of garbage data.

For the record, I’ve voiced doubts about BlackBerry’s decision to launch the touch-based Z10 version of its BB10 platform before the tactile Q10 for two reasons.

First, I believe that even a truly new touch product faces a tough uphill battle against incumbent titans Apple and Samsung. Second, BlackBerry missed the best opportunity to leverage its powerful strengths in physical keyboards and the loyal fan base that adores them.

But that doesn’t mean that the Z10 is failing with customers. So don’t believe everything you read in a blog post.