Published: 19 April, 2012
RIM hopes to pick up some of the shortfall from Nokia's current problems in its emerging markets, and has unveiled a BlackBerry model specifically for Asia. The Curve 9920 will launch first in India, targeting the rise of affordable Android smartphones, but it does not run on the country's new 3G networks, supporting only GSM.
The latest model is an upgrade to a previous low cost BlackBerry and will soon be rolled out all across Asia. It runs BlackBerry OS 7.1 and has a 2-megapixel camera, and comes with a retail price of about INR11,000 ($215).
However, in a market where virtually no phones are subsidized, and some local and Chinese vendors are hitting the $200 mark with 3G Android devices, it is questionable why RIM did not add 3G. There are many affordable 3G chipsets available now, and the feature would ensure stronger support from the major cellcos - the main distribution channel in India - which are trying to boost uptake of their new 3G services with attractive handsets. This is especially urgent as 2G capacity is running out rapidly and additional GSM carriers have had their licences revoked after the 2008 spectrum auction scandal.
The other disadvantages for the Curve is that it does not have Android's app-oriented user experience, and only offers basic applications, although the BlackBerry Messenger and email services are hugely popular in emerging and youth markets.
A rare highlight of RIM's most recent quarterly results was growth in emerging markets, particularly India, Malaysia, Thailand and parts of the Middle East. To some extent, these territories can offset the sharp decline in RIM's fortunes in its North American heartland.