NEW DELHI Research in Motion (RIM) on Wednesday launched in India what it called its "most affordable" BlackBerry smartphone, part of an aggressive push in one of its few growing markets.
The new Curve 9220 is priced in India at 10,990 rupees, higher than the price of Curve 8520, which is RIM's best-selling phone in India, and comes with an introductory offer to download free applications worth 2,500 rupees.
RIM, which will start selling the new phone in India on Thursday, will launch it in a number of other countries in coming weeks, Carlo Chiarello, executive vice president of RIM's smartphone division, told reporters.
The BlackBerry Curve 9220 has a dedicated key for accessing BlackBerry Messenger and FM radio, along with a 2 mega pixel camera, and works on second-generation mobile networks.
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RIM's BlackBerry devices have struggled to compete with Apple Inc's iPhone and iPad and a slew of devices based on Google's Android platform, and the Canadian company reported a quarterly loss last month as sales of its phones slumped.
While RIM's U.S. sales have fallen for five straight quarters, and analysts say consumer acceptance of its smartphones is starting to erode in Latin America and Europe, countries in Asia such as Indonesia and India offer hope for the Waterloo, Ontario-based company.
In India, for example, RIM has seen fast growth as it expanded aggressively into the consumer segment with low-cost offerings and by positioning the device as a gadget for aspiring young professionals and even college students.
Last year, RIM had a 15 percent share of the Indian smartphone market, while Nokia led the segment with a 38 percent share, according to data compiled by technology researcher CyberMedia.
Patrick Spence, RIM's global head of sales, said smartphones account for just about 15 percent of mobile handsets sold globally, but was bullish on the potential for their growth.
"We are very early in this game," he told reporters in New Delhi.
India has are more than 900 million mobile subscribers, making it the second biggest wireless market after China, but smartphones account for just about 6 percent of total handset sales but are growing quickly.
(Reporting by Devidutta Tripathy; Writing by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Tony Munroe)