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US agency dumps BlackBerry, chooses Apple's iPhone

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. government agency has decided to buy iPhones for its employees, dumping its BlackBerry smartphones, citing their unreliability.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said in a public notice last week it would be contracting with Verizon Wireless for the iPhone 5, saying it is the “only device” that meets the agency's needs.

The iPhones will have an additional benefit of compatibility with Apple iPad tablets used by the agency.

The Apple iPhones “will replace the NTSB's existing BlackBerry devices, which have been failing both at inopportune times and at an unacceptable rate,” the agency said in its notice.

“The NTSB requires effective, reliable and stable communication capabilities to carry out its primary investigative mission and to ensure employee safety in remote locations.”

The announcement is more bad news for Canadian-owned Research in Motion (RIM), which makes the BlackBerry and has been traditionally dominant in U.S. government agencies, but has been losing ground to Apple and to smartphones using the Google-backed Android system.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon ended its exclusive deal with RIM to supply its vast workforce with BlackBerry smartphones.

Another government agency, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, also said it was dropping the Blackberry device altogether in favor of Apple's iPhone.

The U.S. military and intelligence agencies have long preferred the Blackberry due to security concerns and had worried that Apple, Android and other smartphones lacked sufficient safeguards.

RIM is set to unveil its new BlackBerry 10 platform, aimed at better competing with Apple and others, on Jan. 30.

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