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BlackBerry offers Classic deal to India consumers

The BlackBerry Classic smartphone is now available in India, an emerging market that carries strong sales potential for the smartphone maker.

BlackBerry hopes its Classic phone will find an audience in India. Josh Miller/CNET

In an attempt to boost sales for its Classic smartphone, BlackBerry is taking it to India.

The new Classic is now available through the online store Snapdeal at a price tag of 31,990 Indian Rupees (roughly $518), the Times of India reported. Swapdeal and BlackBerry will try to drum up sales by offering a buyback bonus of up to 4,500 Rupees to the first 1,000 people who trade in their BlackBerry Bold phones for a Classic.

As the second most populated country in the world, India carries a huge potential source of new customers for BlackBerry. Most developed markets, such as the US and Europe, have already spurned BlackBerry devices in favor of iPhones and Android phones. But many emerging markets remain open and accessible to BlackBerry, and the devices still carry a niche appeal in India, in particular.

Last October, BlackBerry revealed that its Passport phone created huge demand among Indian customers, according to CNET sister site ZDNet. Still, BlackBerry's smartphone market share in India has dropped in recent years, now standing around 0.5 percent. So the company remains under pressure to drum up customers for its new Classic phone.

Launched in the US and other markets this month, the Classic represents a return to the familiar BlackBerry style with a physical QWERTY keyboard and a square display -- but it also adds the ability to run Android apps. The 3.5-inch screen offers a resolution of 720x720 pixels. Equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus processor, the phone includes 16GB of internal storage, which can be expanded to 128GB via a microSD card. The Classic also comes with BlackBerry 10 OS version 10.3.

All but written off in the mobile phone market, BlackBerry has been focusing more of its efforts on products such as BlackBerry Messenger and BlackBerry Enterprise Server. But the company still needs new phones to remain relevant and generate sales in the mobile arena. Last year, BlackBerry introduced the Passport phone equipped with a physical keyboard and a square design.

With its familiar keyboard and traditional design, the BlackBerry Classic may give the company a better chance to win back loyal users. BlackBerry also is hoping the phone will appeal to new customers who would prefer a physical keyboard and appreciate the phone's long battery life and messaging hub, which displays messages and notifications in one spot.

"With the launch of BlackBerry Classic, we bring back the unique BlackBerry QWERTY experience that made the BlackBerry smartphones a users' go-to productivity tool," Sunil Lalvani, managing director of BlackBerry India, said in a statement. "The BlackBerry Classic is designed to give users a distinct experience that every BlackBerry QWERTY loyalist and high-productivity business customer will love."

Financially, BlackBerry is still striving to recover. For its fiscal third quarter, the company announced a profit excluding one-time items of $6 million, or 1 cent a share. That result reversed a lengthy string of losses, including a 2 cent loss reported last quarter. But revenues came in at only $793 million, falling far short of the $931.53 million forecast by analysts.

BlackBerry will unveil more mobile devices at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, according to CEO John Chen. The company knows it can't compete with the likes of Apple and Android. But for now, BlackBerry is counting on enough customer interest in India to generate healthy sales for its Classic phone.