BlackBerry unveils larger smartphone with a five-inch screen

TORONTO – Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry has unveiled another new smartphone, this time with a bigger five-inch screen, as it looks to attract users who want a midpoint device between a phone and tablet.

The BlackBerry Z30 comes with an improved battery life and faster processor than the models released earlier this year, and is about the same size as its competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S4.

It’s the latest effort by the troubled Waterloo, Ont.-based company to grab a larger share of the technology market, as competitors like Apple and Samsung continue to release new versions of their devices alongside a growing number of players in the tablet market.

The new device also meets halfway between the BlackBerry smartphones and the PlayBook tablet which the company stopped producing earlier this year.

BlackBerry is in the midst of major changes within its own organization and recently formed a special committee to consider strategic alternatives, which could include its sale.

Corporate decisions like that have raised questions about the future of the company, which could make the launch of the new BlackBerry Z30 a hard sell for customers.

The phone was announced on Wednesday morning with little fanfare. Unlike the hyped phone launch in January, this time there wasn’t a flashy global event anchored by a CEO speech in New York or an appearance by singer Alicia Keys, who has served as the company’s global creative director.

Instead, the BlackBerry Z30 was unveiled at a surprise conference in Malaysia.

“It’s a concern to me that they would launch it over there, but not over here,” said National Bank analyst Kris Thompson in an interview.

“I’m just dumbfounded by a lot of the decisions the management team has made. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think this phone is going to make a difference.”

The BlackBerry Z30 will first arrive in the U.K. and Middle East next week, followed by availability at a number of Canadian carriers in the coming weeks, though specific dates haven’t been announced.

The company says the phone has a larger battery that will last for up to 25 hours of “mixed use.” Other updates include the latest version of the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The announcement follows the unveiling of a new line of Apple’s iPhones last week, which included a lower-priced version of the popular smartphone in various colours.

BlackBerry shares were up 1.75 per cent or 19 cents to $11.07, shortly after open on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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