BlackBerry to take Q5 to emerging markets; releasing BBM to iOS, Android

BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) CEO Thorsten Heins unveiled the company's newest smartphone, the Q5 aimed at emerging markets, and said BlackBerry is in a much stronger position than it was this time last year.

blackberry q5

BlackBerry Q5

Speaking today at the company's BlackBerry Live partner conference in Orlando, Fla., Heins said that BlackBerry "understands the importance of having devices to suit all markets and needs." Many analysts have said that BlackBerry needs to broaden its portfolio of BlackBerry 10 smartphones to regain market share around the world.

BlackBerry said the Q5, with a Qwerty keyboard and 3.1-inch screen, will be available in select markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia (including the Asia Pacific region) and Latin America starting in July. The company did not provide specs or expected pricing, but the device will come in four colors (red, white, black and pink) and likely be cheaper than the Z10 and Q10.

Heins also said that BlackBerry will bring its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS 6 and smartphones running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android Ice Cream Sandwich or higher later this summer for free. He said at first BBM for other platforms will offer basic features, but BlackBerry will add voice, video chatting and screen sharing throughout the year. "BBM is simply the best messaging and collaboration platform in mobile today," Heins said.

BBM also will support the new BBM Channels service, a real-time "social engagement" platform for brands that brands can post updates to and engage with customers with. BBM Channels will launch on BB10 and be available for other platforms later this year.

Heins said there have now been 200 technical acceptances by carriers worldwide for the Q10 and that it has launched in 14 markets, with more to come. He said the Q10 will be available in the U.S. in early June, which is slightly later than what Blackberry had said in April, when a BlackBerry spokeswoman told FierceWireless the Qwerty Q10 would be available from U.S. carriers by the end of May.

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) said its business customers can work directly with their B2B sales reps to order the Q10, and it will be available for business customers for $119.99 with qualifying plans. The carrier said the Q10 is expected to be available for T-Mobile consumer customers in June for $99.99 down with 24 monthly payments of $20 for qualified buyers.

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) said it will launch the Q10 in "late summer," which could technically mean August or September, but it did not provide pricing or availability. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) said the Q10 will be available for pre-order in the coming weeks and will be available for purchase online and in Verizon stores in June. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) did not provide pricing or availability information for the Q10 but said it will launch the phone "this summer."

At this time last year, Heins had been CEO for only a few months, the company was reviewing strategic options, including whether it would sell itself, and BlackBerry 10 was months away from launching. Heins acknowledged today that the company has more work to do but noted how much progress has been made, including posting a net profit of $98 million in its fiscal fourth quarter despite losing BlackBerry subscribers.

"We have been on a tremendous journey. It hasn't been that easy. We also know there is still work to do," Heins said. "But man, we have reached solid ground with this company."

"We are not only still here, we are firing on all cylinders as a company," he added. Heins said BlackBerry will continue to focus on building "mobile-first" solutions and not trying to bring desktop experiences to mobile platforms, which may have been a dig at Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT).

"We will show the world that BlackBerry understands mobile better than anyone else. We live and breathe mobile," he said, adding, "It's part of our DNA."

Heins said there are now more than 120,000 apps available for BlackBerry 10, up from 70,000 at the end of January, and that Moog's music synthesizer app is coming to BB10 this week (it's currently only available for iOS), and that Skype is launching on BlackBerry 10 devices.

The BlackBerry chief said that the Q10 will ship with BlackBerry 10.1, a software update that will also be available as an update for Z10 customers as a free download. The software includes numerous updates, including the ability to view emails that are attached to another email, get contact suggestions when you start addressing a message, and send PIN to PIN messages for direct communication between BlackBerry smartphones. BlackBerry 10.1 also allows users to set up personalized notifications for their contacts and accounts; click on a phone number in an email or BBM message to call the number or copy and paste it onto the dialer screen in the phone app; adds an HDR (high dynamic range) shooting mode for the camera; landscape support for the calendar, easier international dialing and more.

Heins also demonstrated a QNX-powered Bentley Continental GT running BlackBerry 10 software. The demonstration showed how BlackBerry BBM can support video chat to a car's dashboard console. The video will stop when the car is in motion and will switch to high-quality audio.

While Heins expressed confidence in the future of BlackBerry, the company still has a long way to go. Research firm Gartner said that BlackBerry captured just 3 percent of global smartphone sales in the first quarter, down from 6.8 percent in the year-ago period.

BlackBerry CMO Frank Boulben acknowledged that the company has work to do in terms of marketing, but that the company has streamlined its marketing programs and can now launch products more seamlessly worldwide.  He said today more than 80,000 BlackBerry 10 demonstrations occur around the world every day, that the platform is selling in more than 50,000 retail stores and that the company has trained more than 350,000 sales reps in stores around the world. "We are committed to bringing the Blackberry brand to the forefront," he said.

For more:
- see this webcast
- see this release
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this The Verge live blog
- see this CNET article

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