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T-Mobile to sell BlackBerry Classic to woo businesses

The two companies are both looking to slice off a bigger chunk of the workplace. Will business users bite?

Blackberry Classic
With the partnership between T-Mobile and BlackBerry, the BlackBerry Classic is more widely available for fans of the QWERTY keyboard. Josh Miller/CNET

T-Mobile is adding the BlackBerry Classic to its lineup as part of its latest plan to conquer the business world.

On Thursday, the two companies announced that the phone would be available on T-Mobile's website starting May 13 and at participating U.S. T-Mobile stores starting May 15. Under T-Mobile's installment plan, the BlackBerry Classic will sell for $0 down and $18.33 a month for 24 months.

The move marks a decided thaw in the relations between BlackBerry and T-Mobile. In 2013, T-Mobile announced that it would no longer stock BlackBerry devices at its retail stores, with the carrier's executive vice president for corporate services, David Carey, attributing the move to sluggish sales. In 2014, BlackBerry announced that it would no longer sell devices with T-Mobile following a T-Mobile e-mail campaign that encouraged BlackBerry customers to switch to an iPhone. The BlackBerry Classic is the first BlackBerry device T-Mobile has launched since the Z10 in June 2013.

The BlackBerry Classic itself has already been available at Verizon and AT&T. So why is T-Mobile once again playing ball with BlackBerry and now offering the Classic?

Last month, T-Mobile announced a new initiative dubbed Uncarrier 9.0, through which it aims to bring the same pricing deals to the business world that it already offers to individual customers. The company's Uncarrier campaigns have attempted to challenge Verizon, AT&T and Sprint by offering consumers more choices and flexibility in their phone plans. But in doing so, T-Mobile has neglected the needs of business users, many of whom use the same device both at work and at home.

By offering the BlackBerry Classic via its Uncarrier 9.0 initiative, T-Mobile is obviously looking to correct that mistake and carve out more sales among businesses, both large and small.

"People who love BlackBerry smartphones and want to use one on America's fastest nationwide 4G LTE network now have that choice," T-Mobile president and CEO John Legere said in a press release. "Bringing BlackBerry into our device line-up now also stokes Uncarrier 9.0, which is all about bringing the Uncarrier revolution to business."

With a mobile phone market share of less than 1 percent, BlackBerry has been struggling to stay in the game. To try to win back users, especially its once loyal business customers, the company has introduced several new phones over the past year, including the BlackBerry Classic with its familiar QWERTY keyboard and the latest BlackBerry 10 operating system. And though the Classic is already being sold via Verizon and AT&T, BlackBerry is undoubtedly hoping T-Mobile will bring something new to the table through its Uncarrier 9.0 program.

Both Verizon and AT&T offer their own installment plans through which buyers can purchase the BlackBerry Classic by paying if off via a monthly fee. But T-Mobile would argue that its Uncarrier 9.0 installment plan is superior in that it removes such items as hidden fees and overage charges that still plague customers of rival carriers.

BlackBerry, which was once the darling of the enterprise world, is also facing a business market increasingly being dominated by iPhones and Android devices. Through the new partnership, BlackBerry is likely looking for T-Mobile to push and promote the Classic more aggressively than AT&T or Verizon have done.

"BlackBerry is proud to partner with T-Mobile once again to offer the world's most secure and reliable mobile products and services that encourage productivity -- whether they are individual users making the most of their day with the BlackBerry Classic, or an enterprise seeking to manage thousands of devices," BlackBerry CEO John Chen said.

Equipped with a 3.5-inch HD display made of Corning Gorilla Glass 3, the BlackBerry Classic is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and offers 16 gigabytes of internal storage. Users can increase that amount to 128GB through a microSD card. But it's the familiar physical QWERTY keyboard that stands out the most and may be the biggest draw for BlackBerry loyalists.