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BlackBerry hits 88MPH, goes back to the future with NEW old 9720 mobe

Brainwave: Crank out a cheap QWERTY BB7 phone for Asia, Latin America

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BlackBerry has announced a new phone for emerging markets: the BlackBerry 9720. It's not part of the shiny new BlackBerry OS 10 line-up of mobiles because it's powered by the ancient BlackBerry 7 OS, which last saw action in 2011.

It's the consequence of a mismatch between BlackBerry's swanky modern QNX-based operating system and the company's customers. BB OS 10 requires devices with 2GB of memory and a dual-core processor to run all its bells and whistles; the sort of hardware that sports a mid to high-end price tag.

However plenty of BlackBerry's punters can't afford that: those expecting low-cost handsets in emerging markets. While BlackBerry promised that BB OS 10 would be available across all price points in 2013, it hasn't been able to come up with the goods. Even the cheapest of the three BB OS 10 devices released to date - the Q5 - is still far too expensive to appeal to the $150 segment: it costs about £290 SIM-free in the UK (that's about $450 in the US).

Hence, the volte face. The 9720 will not be available in the West but in Asia and Latin America. It's a QWERTY handset with thumbpad and 2.8-inch screen similar to the low-cost Curve range, and sports a built-in FM radio. It has a 320 x 480 pixel display, an 800MHz processor with 512MB RAM, 5Mp camera and a 1,450mAh battery.

Its ancient OS has been tweaked to allow access to BlackBerry Messenger, FaceBook and Twitter. BlackBerry would rather not devote resources to its legacy OS, but has little other choice.

BB OS 10 turned out to be too much for BlackBerry's PlayBook, too. Having promised owners of the tablet a new version of the operating system, BB CEO Thorsten Heins announced the slab was being discontinued, in part owing to the poor performance of the OS.

The company, which has watched its market share nosedive in just five years, announced it was up for grabs yesterday. ®

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