RIM unveils low-cost BlackBerry for emerging markets

Research In Motion will start selling in India from Thursday a low-cost smartphone with the BlackBerry 7 OS that will soon be offered in other emerging markets.

The 10,990 Indian rupees (US$210) BlackBerry Curve 9220 combines messaging capabilities with what RIM describes as social-centric features including Facebook and Twitter apps, and a dedicated BlackBerry Messenger key.

The BlackBerry 7.1 OS device has a built-in FM radio, and Wi-Fi connectivity that allows users to browse the Web without incurring expensive mobile data charges. RIM said the device has a long-lasting battery, giving users up to seven hours of talk time or up to 28 hours of music playback or FM radio listening on headphones. 

“In our surveys we found that the youth wanted FM radio and longer battery life, among other features,” said Varghese Thomas, director of corporate communications at RIM in India.

BlackBerry devices have found a large, new customer base in the Indian youth segment, said Naveen Mishra, senior manager of the telecoms practice at CyberMedia Research in a research note after the launch of the new BlackBerry smartphone. With the device, RIM goes mass market while staying relevant to enterprise users, he said.

Many applications important for the enterprise sector such as corporate email via the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, field-force automation tools and collaborative enterprise applications can be better enabled and managed securely with the new BlackBerry 7 OS, Mishra said.

India had 912 million mobile users at the end of February, but users in the country are very price-sensitive, and more likely to buy plain phones than smartphones, and sometimes from local manufacturers and Chinese makers. 

Smartphones accounted for six per cent of the 183 million Indian handset market last year, but year-on-year growth was high at 87 percent, according to CyberMedia Research. Nokia had a 38 percent share of the smartphone market, followed by Samsung with 28 percent, and RIM with 15 percent, it said.

RIM has been discounting the prices of some of its smartphones in India in the last month or so to get a larger share of the growing smartphone market.

To address newer markets in India, including smaller cities and towns, RIM is aiming to expand its presence from 80 cities currently to about 250 cities. It is also increasing the number of retail outlets where its phones are sold to 5,500 from the current 4,000. 

RIM is also offering free apps worth 2,500 rupees from BlackBerry App World with the new device, as an introductory offer until June 30. 

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service

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