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BlackBerry Outlines Phone Plans, Other Initiatives

Orlando, Fla. — BlackBerry announced a time frame for the launch of its long-awaited Q10 smartphone, during a Tuesday morning keynote at its Jam event, here.

Other news included the summertime launch of a third smartphone based on the BlackBerry 10 OS, and the planned extension of its BlackBerry Messaging (BBM) instant messaging service to iOS and Android devices.

Blackberry executives also said they have begun today to roll out a BlackBerry 10 update, called BlackBerry 10.1, to users of the BlackBerry Z10 outside the U.S. Carriers in the U.S. will begin to roll out the update later this month.

 The company also announced plans for BBM Channels, a BBM extension that will let brands, businesses and other groups create channels of information for BBM users.

In late January, the company unveiled the full-touch Z10 and QWERTY-keyboard-equipped Q10 as its first BlackBerry10 phones in a bid to revive its declining fortunes. Both feature 4G LTE. The Z10 is already available in the U.S.

 In today’s announcements, the company disclosed that the Q10 will ship with the new 10.1 OS update and will become available in the U.S. for the first time in June. For its part, T-Mobile said the Q10 will be available to consumers on its network in June for a down payment of $99 plus 24 equal monthly payments of $20 with no-contract plans. That brings the price to $579.

T-Mobile did not disclose a specific date in June for availability to consumers. T-Mobile sales reps, however, have already been working with enterprises to place Q10 orders at prices beginning at $119 with qualifying plans.

  Sprint said it will offer the LTE-equipped Q10 in late summer but did not disclose a price or specific date.

 In unveiling a third BlackBerry Q10 OS phone, the Q5, president/CEO Thorsten Heins said the device will be available for “select markets like emerging markets” beginning in July to target a lower price tier. Although the device isn’t currently targeted to the U.S., “that could change,” a spokesman later told TWICE.

 The company is positioning the Q5 as a youthful device available in four colors. It features QWERTY keyboard and 3.1-inch color touchscreen like the Q10. Detailed specifications were unavailable.

  In updating the BlackBerry 10 OS, the company said it is adding such features as keyboard shortcuts and improving the phones’ BlackBerry Hub, which aggregates incoming messages from email, social networks and the like into one screen view. In addition, Skype will become available for BlackBerry devices using the BlackBerry 10.1.

In BBM developments, the company said it plans this summer to offer a free BBM app for Apple’s iOS 6 devices and for Android 4.0 or higher devices subject to approval by the Apple App Store and Google Play.

At launch, the apps will offer BBM instant messaging, including multi-person chats, and the ability to share photos and voice notes and engage in BBM Groups, which lets users create groups of up to 30 people.  Later this year, the apps will add BBM’s ability to switch to a video chat and to let users share what’s on their screen, including pictures and PowerPoint presentations, said Heins.

Also later this year, the apps will get BBM Channels, which will enable “real-time mobile engagement” between brands, businesses, celebrities and other groups with their fans, Heins said. Consumers will be notified of posts by the groups they opt to follow. 

During the keynote, the company demonstrated a concept car infotainment system running the BlackBerry 10 smartphone OS in a stock Bentley. The system included integrated BBM video and voice service for videoconferencing when the vehicle is not in motion.