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Pay-as-you-go deal for 'addictive' Blackberry

Partnership with Orange to widen appeal of 'Crackberry' to the general public

Barack Obama refused to give his up, and business executives find them so addictive that they are commonly referred to as "Crackberries".

Yet the makers of the Blackberry handset have struggled to widen its appeal to the general public.

Now though the senior management of Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that created the Blackberry, is to announce a partnership with Orange to launch the first "pay-as- you-go" tariff for the Blackberry in the UK. This marks the culmination of a shift in strategy which it hopes will lead young adults away from the iPhone.

Previously Blackberries were only available on a monthly contract, which tended to price consumers out of the market. Now, customers will have to pay £145 to get hold of a handset, before topping it up with phone credit. They will also have to pay £5 a month for the internet services, which are available on 30-day rolling contract.

The uphill struggle facing Blackberry is one of boardroom perception, and the youth market has tended to ignore it. The UK is currently dominated by pay-as-you-go customers, who make up two-thirds of the market. The pay-as-you-go market is dominated by 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK – the demographic that all mobile phone companies are targeting.

Ian Fogg, principal analyst at Forrester, said: "RIM sees it as an opportunity to take the expertise built up in the business space and widen it out. They are clearly aiming at younger users, who can now get the right tool at the right price."

With Orange, Blackberry hopes to entice the young with access to social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. This is seen as crucial for bringing in younger clients, and Orange found that 170 million page impressions are accessed by their customers a month.

"Accessing social networking sites will drive the move to the Blackberry. It is a great internet tool, which is where many other phones – iPhone excepted – fall down," said Michael Brook, editor of consumer technology magazine T3.

Blackberry has tried to take on the iPhone head on, with the launch of the Blackberry Storm, which was unlike any model that had gone before it. Mr Fogg added: "Companies are responding to Apple. RIM is repositioning itself as a lifestyle accessory rather than just a corporate email tool."