OTTAWA - Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry (IW 1000/240) has fired 250 employees in a new product testing division at its Canadian headquarters, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

"BlackBerry on Tuesday informed 250 employees of their termination" in Waterloo, Ontario, spokeswoman Lisette Kwong said.

"These employees were part of the New Product Testing Facility, a department that supports BlackBerry's manufacturing and R&D (research and development) efforts," she said.

While BlackBerry helped create a culture of mobile users who were glued to the company's smartphones, many of those customers have since moved to Apple (IW 500/4) or other smartphone makers such as Samsung, mainly using the Google Android operating system.

A recent survey showed BlackBerry's share of the global smartphone market shrank to 2.9% in the first quarter of 2013.

In a turnaround bid, the company unveiled a new platform in January, as it dropped the corporate name Research in Motion to rebrand as BlackBerry.

New smartphones based on its new BlackBerry 10 platform were seen as the company's best hope at regaining traction after suffering staggering losses in market share in recent years.

But an unexpected first quarter loss and disappointing sales figures posted last month sent its share price plunging.

The latest staff cuts, said Kwong, are "part of the next stage of our turnaround plan to increase efficiencies and scale our company correctly for new opportunities in mobile computing."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013