BlackBerry has just taken version seven of its wildly popular instant messaging service BBM out of Beta, with the ability to make free voice calls among the new features.
BBM voice was first announced last month and allows people to make calls to fellow BBM users as long as they’re on Wi-Fi.
Anyone wanting to run BBM 7 will need to run BlackBerry OS 6 or higher, although the Waterloo-based company says it’s planning on readying the app for OS 5 some time early next year.
The app will also notify you when there are updates to download straight from within the app. Your BBM profile, Groups and Contacts meanwhile will now be linked to your BlackBerry ID.
The free BBM calls sound kind of nifty until you think about the fact that the person on the other end also has to have a BlackBerry. Given its rapid descent down that the marketshare charts, that’s increasingly unlikely to happen. Making the calls free over Wi-Fi also doesn’t make sense for emerging market countries with relatively broadband penetration, and places where BlackBerry is still fairly strong.
Add in competitive, cross-platform services like Viber and Skype and that special feature that BlackBerry’s been harping on about suddenly doesn’t seem so special anymore. If RIM had somehow managed to wangle the service into its BIS package that would have been something really worth celebrating. Then again, you wouldn’t have found a mobile operator in the world willing to stock BlackBerry phones if that was the case.