Research In Motion is adding another smartphone to its BlackBerry lineup as it aims to win market share among both executives and mainstream consumers despite tough economic conditions.
The new model is known as the BlackBerry Tour and falls somewhere between the BlackBerry Curve, which has proved very popular with consumers, and the BlackBerry Bold, which RIM has aimed at high-end corporate users.
RIM co-Chief Executive Jim Balsillie told Reuters in an interview that the new device will soon launch with Verizon and Sprint in the United States and Telus and BCE's Bell unit in Canada.
Even though the device isn't drastically different from many other BlackBerry handsets in appearance -- it has the familiar candy-bar shape with a full keyboard -- Balsillie said the Tour is a big step forward.
It is what RIM calls a world phone, which means it can easily access voice and data services on networks outside the user's home country. This has proven popular with business users in the past.
To appeal to the retail market, the Tour is loaded with multimedia features similar to those found in the BlackBerry Curve and Pearl, including a photo and video camera and media player.
Unveiling products that cross customer categories is proving increasingly important to Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM and it is continuing to make deeper inroads into the broader retail market.
However, the company is also being careful not to alienate the corporate users who have been its mainstay and who rely on its smartphones to send wireless e-mail securely.
At the same time, rivals such as Apple and Palm in North America and Nokia in Europe are launching new products and aggressively pricing their phones to lure users.
RIM shares were up C$3.15, or 3.5 percent, at C$94.05 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Tuesday morning.
(Reporting by Wojtek Dabrowski; editing by Rob Wilson)