RIM unveils cheaper BlackBerry

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Research In Motion unveiled a lower-cost BlackBerry aimed at consumers in emerging markets on Tuesday, and said it will offer its once-popular BlackBerry Messenger service on iPhones and devices running Google’s Android software.

CEO Thorsten Heins said the time is right to offer BBM on rival devices. He said iPhone and Android versions will be available for free, subject to approval by Google Play and the Apple App Store.

“It’s time to bring BBM to a greater audience,” Heins said. “I cannot wait for the day when all of our BlackBerry fans can send BBM invites to all their friends on other platforms. They have asked us for this for years.”

The BBM service was once a reason for BlackBerry users not to defect to other smartphones. Now, there are many rival messaging services. Still, there are more than 60 million BBM users worldwide.

The lower-cost Q5 device will be available in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia (including the Asia Pacific region), and Latin America beginning in July. The company did not disclose prices for the new phone. The higher-tier Q10 has been released in most markets, but U.S. carriers likely won’t have it until June after a delay.

The gadget is part of RIM’s effort to regain market share lost to Apple’s iPhone and Android smartphones. It is the company’s third smartphone to run the new BlackBerry 10 system. The Q5 will have a physical keyboard, something that sets RIM’s devices apart from Apple’s iPhone and most Android phones.

The U.S. delay in selling the new keyboard BlackBerry complicates RIM’s efforts to hang on to customers tempted by Apple’s iPhone and a range of Android smartphones. Even as the BlackBerry has fallen behind rivals in recent years, many BlackBerry users have remained loyal because they prefer a physical keyboard over the touch screen found on the iPhone and most Android devices.

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