WASHINGTON -- The newest version of the BlackBerry smartphone went on sale in the United States on Friday in what is seen as a crucial test for the struggling tech firm.

The BlackBerry Z10, the first phone using the new BlackBerry 10 platform, is being sold through T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, and at retailer Best Buy.

The new platform is seen as the Canadian firm's last opportunity to regain ground in a market dominated by Google's Android and Apple's iOS operating systems.

The touch-screen Z10 has already been launched in other markets, including Australia, Britain and Indonesia. The company also plans a model with a physical keyboard called Q10.

While the launch lacked the crowds seen for the iPhone, an event held in New York's Times Square and recounted on the BlackBerry blog showed interest among U.S. customers to be the first to get the device just after midnight.

"Here's Manny, an eager fan who 'just had to be the first' to get his hands on the new BlackBerry Z10 in the United States," said a caption for a picture on the blog. "He was met with cheers from the crowd as he held up his newly activated device."

An Uphill Battle

But Daniel Ernst, an analyst at Hudson Square Research, said demand appeared to be sluggish in a check of retailers.

"Today, we found no lines, no signage announcing the launch and clerks told us they had very few pre-orders," he said.

The new device has received generally positive reviews, but analysts say it will be an uphill battle for BlackBerry (IW 1000/240), which has lost much of its market share.

According to research firm IDC, BlackBerry's global market share fell to 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2012, from 8.1% a year earlier.

Gartner analyst Van Baker said it will be difficult to recoup those losses.

"Although BB10 presents a modernized new platform based on touch technology, market conditions will make it extremely difficult for BlackBerry to rise above iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 platforms," Baker said in a blog post.

"In fact, Gartner predicts that through 2016, BlackBerry will achieve less than 5% worldwide smartphone market share."