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BlackBerry chases market share with two launches

Announces midrange smartphone, the Q5, for emerging economies, and opens BBM to Android and iOS

By CAROLINE GABRIEL

Published: 15 May, 2013

READ MORE: Research In Motion | Messaging | BlackBerry | Handset

BlackBerry has announced two major products to try to expand its market reach - a handset aimed at the prepaid or emerging markets, and a version of its popular BBM messaging service for Android and iOS.

The latter offering, which has been the main driver of BlackBerry growth in teenage markets - especially in parts of Europe and Asia - will make its debut on third party operating systems this summer. This risks depriving BlackBerry's new handsets, which run the BB10 OS, of one of their key differentiators, but shows the Canadian firm recognizing that its system is likely to remain a niche platform compared to the big two.


BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) will come to iOS 6 and Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and beyond, subject to approval by Apple App Store and Google Play. While neither is likely to provoke damaging confrontation and user anger by rejecting BBM, it will pose a real threat to Apple's and Google's own services, in an application area which is vital to user uptake and usage.

Initially it will be a text-only service, available as a free download, but voice and video chat will be added later in the year.

"For BlackBerry, messaging and collaboration are inseparable from the mobile experience, and the time is definitely right for BBM to become a multi-platform mobile service, said Andrew Bocking, EVP of software product management and ecosystem BlackBerry. "BBM has always been one of the most engaging services for BlackBerry customers, enabling them to easily connect while maintaining a valued level of personal privacy. We're excited to offer iOS and Android users the possibility to join the BBM community."

BBM has more than 60m monthly active customers, with more than 51m people using it for an average of 90 minutes a day, says the firm. BBM customers collectively send and receive more than 10bn messages a day, nearly twice as many as other rival apps.

BlackBerry has also enhanced its platform with the new BBM Channels, a social engagement tool that allows users to keep in touch with their chosen businesses, celebrities and groups. This will be added to the iOS and Android versions later this year, indicating that BlackBerry will preserve a time advantage for its own OS, in terms of new features that could attract additional customers.

Meanwhile, the latest BlackBerry handset is the Q5, which will be rolled out in emerging markets from July. It is a lower end model with a physical Qwerty keyboard. Demand for BlackBerry products has been more robust in countries like Indonesia than in most developed mobile markets, during the Canadian firm's dark days during the long wait for the new BB10 platform. That made its debut on two high end devices, Z10 and Q10, but is now going after the mass market.

The Q5 is a more basic version of the existing keyboard model, the Q10, which went on sale in Canada and the UK earlier this month and will launch in the US, with T-Mobile, soon.

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