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BlackBerry introduces US$275 touch-screen phone at Barcelona show

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BlackBerry Ltd introduced a 5-inch (12.7 centimetre) touch-screen device in the erstwhile smartphone leader's latest attempt to regain market share.

[BARCELONA] BlackBerry Ltd introduced a 5-inch (12.7 centimetre) touch-screen device in the erstwhile smartphone leader's latest attempt to regain market share.

The "Leap" phone, which comes in white and gray, will cost US$275 and be sold via European carriers in April, the Waterloo, Ontario-based company said during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday. BlackBerry is planning another device with a sliding keyboard this year.

Chief Executive Officer John Chen took over in late 2013, at a time when BlackBerry's share of the global smartphone market had fallen to less than one per cent. He brought back the iconic physical keyboard and oversaw the 2014 release of two new phones, the Passport and the Classic. Now, Mr Chen plans to revive its smartphone business by pushing security and messaging software to all devices.

"We're going to make sure our software technology addresses everybody's phones and everybody's endpoint," Mr Chen said in Barcelona. Mr Chen aims to get BlackBerry programs on connected cars, non-BlackBerry phones and wearable devices to boost the company's transition from a slumping phonemaker to a more profitable software company.

Still, hardware revenue for the quarter through Nov 29 dropped 24 per cent to US$361 million from a year earlier.

Mr Chen has struggled to offset declining phone sales by increasing the company's focus on software including its BBM messaging system and so-called virtual SIM technology that allows multiple phone numbers on a single device.

"Our financial game plan continues, making more money and generating more cash," Mr Chen said. "We are very hopeful about our future. We think we will be able to stabilize our revenue and position ourselves for growth."

Mr Chen, a former SAP SE executive, detailed plans on Sunday to build more software products for non-BlackBerry devices and to integrate the company's services with products offered by Google Inc and Samsung Electronics Co.

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