NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- BlackBerry (BBRY) announced its new, top-of-the-line smartphone, the Classic, in lower Manhattan, this morning. They chose the location, near Wall Street, to emphasize the point that this phone, and BlackBerries in general, are still important business tools.


The company spent a fortune introducing this smartphone hosting the event at Cipriani's -- the cavernous restaurant space on lower Broadway in front of the infamous bronze bull. They took nearly an hour-and-a-half to offer presentations along with testimonials from a number of corporate leaders explaining why they've chosen and are sticking with BlackBerry devices.

At midday, BlackBerry shares were gaining nearly 5% to $9.96 in New York.

The new Classic is a big improvement over the company's last workhorse model the Bold 9900 introduced in mid-2011. The company believes the Classic excels at what BlackBerries have always offered -- the best, most secure email communications solution on the market. In addition this new phone is said to deliver three times faster browser speeds, 60% more screen space, 50% longer battery life and a greater variety of applications through BlackBerry World and the Amazon.com's  (AMZN)  Amazon Appstore.

Classic is physically larger than the Bold, has a 3.5-inch square touchscreen display (294 dots-per-inch), a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm (QCOM) Snapdragon processor, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB of device storage (expandable by up to 128 GB), and improved 2MP front- and 8MP rear-facing cameras. Blackberry says its engineers have even improved its world-famous QWERTY keyboard. 

As for software, it uses BlackBerry 10 OS 10.3.1 which means it has the ability to run a number of Google (GOOG) Android-based applications. There are also new, branded productivity tools inside. BlackBerry Blend integrates all messaging, media and content between the user's smartphone, computer and tablet. BlackBerry Assistant is the company's first digital assistant (think Apple (AAPL) Siri, Google Now and Microsoft (MSFT) Cortana) which allows users to use voice and text commands to manage both work and personal items as well as native BlackBerry 10 applications.

BlackBerry stresses that its phones run on a super-secure operating system and that the new Classic is "private by default, protecting users with encrypted email, web browsing and BBM." According to Executive Chairman and CEO John Chen, "By bringing back the trusted functionalities, incorporating our latest operating system and building a speedier browser, our users can feel confident they are using the best communications tool out there."

BlackBerry faces an uphill battle. Once the industry leader, BlackBerry, according to the latest numbers from Gartner, is now part of the "Others" category when it comes to global smartphone sales to end users. In the third-quarter, 2014 Samsung (SSNLF) led all manufacturers with 24.4% of global smartphone sales, Apple was second with 12.7%, and in third, fourth and fifth place were three Chinese firms Huawei (5.3%), Xiaomi (5.25) and Lenovo (5.1%). BlackBerry didn't register in Gartner's top-ten list of all mobile phone manufacturers.

BlackBerry's says its new Classic is now available through local carriers around the world and online through ShopBlackBerry.com and Amazon.com. It's priced at $549 without a contract. The Classic is a GSM-only phone. That means it won't work on Sprint's (S) , Verizon (VZ) or US Cellular's (UZA) networks. We made a quick check and found that AT&T (T) sells only the older Q10 while T-Mobile  (TMUS)  doesn't currently sell any BlackBerry phones.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

To submit a news tip, send an email to tips@thestreet.com.


TheStreet Ratings team rates BLACKBERRY LTD as a Sell with a ratings score of D. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate BLACKBERRY LTD (BBRY) a SELL. This is driven by some concerns, which we believe should have a greater impact than any strengths, and could make it more difficult for investors to achieve positive results compared to most of the stocks we cover. Among the areas we feel are negative, one of the most important has been an overall disappointing return on equity."

You can view the full analysis from the report here: BBRY Ratings Report

Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's Senior Technology Correspondent

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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