BBM for smartphones receives unexpected hype

a/Science & Technology by

After firing 4,500 employees due to sales losses and signing an agreement to sell the company to FairFax Financial for $4.7 billion USD, what could BlackBerry Ltd. possibly do to regain its momentum in the smartphone industry? Perhaps releasing its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service for free to Android and iPhone users will do the trick.

On Oct. 21, BlackBerry Ltd. launched BBM for Android’s Google Play Store and Apple’s App store. According to the Blackberry blog, over 10 million people downloaded the service worldwide in the first 24 hours of its release.

The company stated that, “[it was] one of the best single-day openings for a mobile app to date.”

Andrew Bocking, the executive vice president of BBM for BlackBerry, reported in the Blackberry blog that the app quickly rose to being the number one downloaded app that day in over 75 countries including Canada, UK, U.S., Indonesia, and most of the Middle East.

“We intend to be the leading private social network for everyone who needs the immediate communication and collaboration of instant messaging combined with the privacy, control, and reliability delivered through BBM,” Bocking wrote in a press release.

The app was originally due to be released late in September; however, this was postponed until October after a version for Android devices was leaked online.

To date, the BBM app is available for Android users running Android 4.0x and iPhone users running iOS6 and iOS7. Users can download BBM from their app stores or by visiting BBM.com. Those who signed up online or had pre-existing accounts for BBM can immediately begin using the service. Otherwise, BBM has set up a simple line-up system to deal with the demand.

“If you didn’t sign up in advance, don’t worry—we are focused on moving millions of customers through the line as fast as possible,” Bocking wrote.

BBM was one of the first instant-messaging apps for smart phones that allowed for calling, texting, video chatting, and the ability to share screens with other BlackBerry users. It rose in popularity during the late 2000s, but faced a user decline with the emergence of Apple and Android smartphones.

As of now, BBM for Android and iPhones allows for instant messaging, and an update feed for contact activity while using BBM’s unique PIN and barcode system for adding contacts. The company hopes to bring BBM Video, BBM Voice, and BBM Channels to Android and iOS.

Despite the hype, BBM is still up against some serious competition. The multi-platform service WhatsApp has already established approximately 200 million customers worldwide. This app allows for instant messaging, voice messaging, and group chats like BBM. The service also allows users to send multiple file types through chats, which BBM cannot do as easily.

Unlike WhatsApp, BBM gives the user complete control in adding contacts through the PIN and barcode system. WhatsApp lacks this control; anyone set up as a contact on a smartphone is automatically set up as a contact on WhatsApp.

It’s difficult to determine whether BBM will surpass its competition. Each excels in some areas and lack in others. The clash of these two titans is inevitable, and only with time will we know which prevails and dominates.