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Blackberry to launch new smartphone and start fight-back

The 2011 Blackberry

The 2011 Blackberry

BlackBerry is looking to launch its fightback this week with a new high spec version of the trademark handset.

The smartphone has been in decline in recent years largely due to the growth in Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S3.

But experts say the BlackBerry 10  should give them a run for their money.

One expert who has held and used the device ahead of the launch said it had "high specifications" that allowed users to do "good stuff in a couple of clicks", which would appeal to both businesses and consumers.

But another questioned whether the launch, delayed from last year, meant the brand's owner, Canadian firm Research In Motion (RIM), had left it too late.

Malik Kamal-Saadi, principal analyst with Informa, said the new operating system (OS) on the two expected handsets was a "trump card" that could see it win back customers lost through the poor performance of the previous BlackBerry 7 phones.

He said: "The 'experience' is very attractive for business users and consumers.

"BB10 has what is needed to seduce back in both developed markets (Europe and North America).

"I haven't seen anything like it in terms of the experience."

Mr Kamal-Saadi held and used the devices at RIM's European headquarters in Slough.

He said the system would be appealing to both business and social high-end users in Europe and North America, where BlackBerry lost the most ground over the past two or three years.

But he added that the software was akin to the first generation of iPhones in being so radically different it may take people a little while to get used to it.

Investors will "leap into the sky" if BB10 sells more than four million units in the first three months on sale, he said, but sales of between one and two million would be okay. Anything less than one million would be a "big mess".

He pointed out that the first iPhone, which went on to become a phenomenon, did not exceed four million sales in the first quarter year of sales and the less popular Windows phone sold between one-and-a-half and two million.

BlackBerry's handsets revolutionised white-collar working a decade ago and are widely credited with kick-starting the smartphone boom.

BlackBerry plans to launch two handsets, the Z10 and X10 on Wednesday. Pictures leaked online purporting to be the Z10 show a touchscreen phone along similar lines to the iPhone. The X10 is believed to be more of a classic BlackBerry, with a Qwerty keyboard.

Ernest Doku, technology expert with uSwitch.com, said: "For RIM and BlackBerry, it is very much the resurrection of the BlackBerry brand.

"Consumers have been waiting a long time to see what they were coming up with. They have fallen to the wayside but a lot of signs are pointing to this being their return to relevance in the smartphone market."

He said that people would also be waiting for a likely version with a Qwerty keyboard.

"There is a massive USP (unique selling proposition) in the return of the physical keyboard," he added.

"Nine out of 10 consumers we asked related that with the BlackBerry.

"BlackBerry has been lucky in terms of its (fanbase) loyalty which may not have been the case for people like Nokia.

"It could well be a success story for them."

The battle for domination of the mobile and tablet market has become increasingly heated in the past 18 months, with Apple's competitors taking it on with a series of new products.

Nokia and Microsoft joined forces to launch two new phones which run on the Windows operating system.

Apple was dealt a new blow to morale as figures for the Christmas period showed its rocket-like growth had continued to stall, causing a fall in its share price.

But some question whether the latest BlackBerry launch is too little too late.

Russell Feldman, associate director for technology and telecoms consulting at YouGov, said: "We know that right now RIM is in a poor situation, and so there is definitely a lot of pressure for the BlackBerry 10 to deliver.

"According to SMIX UK, our consumer smartphone tracker, two-thirds of RIM's current customers do not expect to get a BlackBerry again, with most opting to switch to an iPhone.

"BlackBerry 10 has the opportunity to at least stop the rot... providing it is able to market itself effectively and curry favour with retailers and operators.

"It also needs to be a decent system to at least get critics on its side, and it then could have the potential to take share away from others. However, RIM may have left it too late."

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