Verizon Wireless to sell BlackBerry Storm for $200

A BlackBerry storm is seen in a handout photo. REUTERS/Handout.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Wireless said on Thursday that it would sell the touch-screen BlackBerry Storm for $199.99, after a rebate -- in line with pricing for its popular rival, Apple Inc's AAPL.O iPhone.

The wireless venture of Verizon Communications VZ.N and Vodafone Group Plc VOD.L said the first touch-screen phone from Research In Motion RIM.TO would cost $199.99 after a $50 rebate for customers who sign a new two-year service contract.

Pricing for the highly anticipated device, which goes on sale online and in Verizon stores on November 21, has been the source of much speculation after Vodafone said October 31 that it would give the Storm free to UK customers who sign a contract.

U.S. carriers in particular often shoulder a big part of the price of cell phones in exchange for getting customers to commit to a two-year service contract but analysts have worried about the effect a hefty subsidy on the Storm would have on Verizon Wireless’s profit margins.

AT&T Inc T.N, the exclusive U.S. provider for iPhone, has already shown that its subsidy for the latest iPhone has hurt its profits in the recent quarter.

Verizon Wireless and Vodafone have exclusive agreements to offer Storm with Research in Motion, whose BlackBerry devices are a big hit with business users who e-mail on the go.

The popularity of the iPhone, first launched in mid-2007, has also inspired rivals including Nokia NOK1V.HE, the world's biggest cell phone maker, Taiwan's HTC 2498.TW and South Korea's LG Electronics 066570.KS and Samsung 005930.KS to develop their own touch-screen phones.

But unlike other touch screen devices, the Storm’s screen indents slightly when it is pressed, a feature designed to attract users who have been hesitant to move away from phones with physical keypads for fear of having difficulty typing.

Reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Gary Hill