TORONTO (AP) — BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion said Wednesday that its much-delayed new smartphones are now being tested by 50 wireless carriers around the world.
The Canadian company called it a key step as it prepares to launch the new BlackBerry 10 software and phones in the first quarter of next year.
The phones are seen as critical to RIM's survival. The release will come as the company struggles in North America to hold onto customers who are abandoning BlackBerrys for flashier iPhones and Android phones.
"I'm very pleased to confirm that we have passed a critical milestone in the development of our brand new mobile computing platform," RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said in a statement. "This process will continue in the coming months as more carriers around the world formally evaluate the devices and our brand new software."
RIM's current software is still focused on email and messaging, and is less user-friendly and agile than iPhone or Android. Its attempt at touch screens and a tablet were a flop, and RIM lacks the apps that power other smartphones. RIM's hopes hang on BlackBerry 10. It's thoroughly redesigned for the touchscreen, Internet browsing and apps experience that customers now expect. A full touchscreen device will be released first followed shortly after by a physical keyboard version.
Heins, who took over as CEO in January after the company lost tens of billions in market value, had vowed to do everything he could to release BlackBerry 10 this year but said in June that the timetable wasn't realistic. Heins says he can turn things around with BlackBerry 10.