Embattled BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion says its delayed new smartphones are now being tested by 50 wireless carriers around the world.
The Canadian company calls it a key step as it prepares to launch the new BlackBerry 10 software and phones in the first quarter of next year.
The phones are seen as critical to RIM's survival. The release will come as the company struggles in North America to hold onto customers who are abandoning BlackBerrys for flashier iPhones and Android phones.
RIM's current software is still focused on email and messaging, and is less user-friendly and agile than iPhone or Android. Its attempt at touch screens and a tablet were a flop, and RIM lacks the apps that power other smartphones. RIM's hopes hang on BlackBerry 10. It's thoroughly redesigned for the touchscreen, Internet browsing and apps experience that customers now expect. A full touchscreen device will be released first followed shortly after by a physical keyboard version.
The new BlackBerrys will be released after the holiday shopping season and well after Apple's launch of iPhone 5.
RIM was once Canada's most valuable company with a market value of more than $80 billion in 2008, but the stock has plummeted since, from over $140 share to around $7. Its decline evokes memories of Nortel, another former Canadian tech giant, which declared bankruptcy in 2009.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)