x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

BlackBerry hopes to take Apple by Storm

A new BlackBerry mobile email phone in the touch-screen style of Apple's iPhone will soon hit the US market.

A new BlackBerry mobile email phone in the touch-screen style of Apple's iPhone will soon hit the US market, with its promoters saying it will "crush the competition". In an internal briefing to employees on Monday, the US mobile network Verizon revealed the new BlackBerry Storm. Soon after, the company posted a video of the briefing, led by the company's chief marketing officer Mark Lanman, on its public website.

"It has been designed to crush the competition and work around the globe," said Mr Lanman. "We fully expect our sales team to take the world by storm. Which is why we've named it BlackBerry Storm." No details are available regarding pricing or its availability outside the US. But people familiar with the company say it will host a major regional product launch at the Gitex technology exhibition in Dubai from Oct 19 to 23.

If released in the UAE, the phone would be the leading device of its type on the market, with Apple yet to agree on a local distribution deal for its product. Research in Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that produces the BlackBerry, has found huge success in the corporate market, with busy business users becoming so dependent on its mobile email service that they dubbed it the "crackberry". But Apple, which entered the mobile market with the revolutionary iPhone, has been making steady inroads into the company's market, and every major phone maker is in the process of releasing an imitation.

RIM's new device has a large touch screen and no regular buttons or keypad, and looks similar to the iPhone, but it features the signature curved edges found on most BlackBerry phones. After the release of the iPhone, which uses a virtual on-screen keyboard for inserting text, many BlackBerry users said they preferred the responsiveness and physical feedback of a full "QWERTY" keypad, found on most BlackBerry devices.

The Storm uses a virtual keyboard similar to the iPhone, but "it's not just any touch screen," its makers say. "It's got a 'click' touch-screen for smooth, precise text input that feels like a keyboard." In a set of talking points distributed to Verizon employees, the company stressed that the Storm had the iPhone squarely in its sights. One section is devoted to listing all the features found on the new BlackBerry that are missing from Apple's device; turn-by-turn GPS navigation, a removable battery and memory card, picture messaging and stereo sound output via the wireless Bluetooth standard all make the list.

The influential consumer-electronics website Gizmodo called the Storm "actually worthy of gadget lust". The new touch-screen format is RIM's second major launch of the past week, with the company also releasing its first "clamshell"-style flip-open device. tgara@thenational.ae