Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry on Tuesday announced plans to offer its popular — and secure — instant messaging system, the BlackBerry Messenger, on rival devices. It also introduced a new mid-tier smartphone targetted at countries where its faded brand remains strong.
Tapping into its still robust popularity outside North America, BlackBerry said the new Q5 smartphone would be available starting in July in selected markets in Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The Q5 includes the tiny qwerty keyboard that still sets BlackBerry apart from most rivals.
It gave no prices, but will clearly target a younger, more price-sensitive crowd with the device, which will be available in colours including pink, red and white.
"BlackBerry is clearly aiming to replicate the success of the BlackBerry Curve in emerging markets," Ovum analyst Adam Leach said. The Curve has been popular in India and other developing countries.
Once a unique tool to send messages without running up SMS charges, BBM now competes with mobile instant messaging products from Facebook, Apple and others, and less directly with the micro-blogging service Twitter.
Heins said he is confident that BlackBerry can offer the service more broadly without losing its own customers.
‘The guy with BBM can now talk to friends — free’
Thorsten Heins said BBM will be offered free of charge to consumers using rival phones. “It’s time to bring BBM to a greater audience,” he said, noting that BBM is used for 10 billion messages a day.
Analysts questioned the move. “The guy on the iPhone is gone already, he's lost,” said Colin Gillis, analyst at BGC Partners in New York.
“The point is that the guy on the BlackBerry can at least now talk to his friends.”