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Finally. After years of rumours and cries for a cross-platform service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is headed to phones that don’t carry the company’s logo. As CEO Thorsten Heins revealed at BlackBerry Live yesterday, the popular instant messaging app is headed to Android and iDevices later this year — but can it find a foothold among all the messaging apps clogging up the various app stores?
Despite the worldwide marketshare BlackBerry has lost over the past few years, BBM, which is a pre-installed app which allows users to send videos, voice notes, text, photos and, more recently, make video calls over WiFi, is still incredibly popular. It has some 61-million monthly active users globally, 51-million of whom use the app every day for an average of one and a half hours.
With symbols to tell you if a message has been sent, delivered and read, it’s also a very engaging app (as any BlackBerry addict who watches for the blinking red notification light out of the corner of their eye will tell you). According to BlackBerry, half of all BBM messages are read within 20 seconds of being received, and its users are sending 10-billion messages a day. But despite this, once it goes cross-platform, BBM will be competing against the likes of WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger and up-and-coming apps like WeChat, which have had time to grow substantial user bases and carve out a place on the homescreens of millions of smartphones.
For example, WhatsApp, which is available on everything from Symbian to iOS, has more than 200-million users globally who send eight-billion inbound messages and 12-billion outbound messages per day. Facebook and Skype’s mobile messaging apps are available massive total user bases of 1.11-billion and 280-million respectively, and WeChat is now used by 190-million users a month. As MoneyWeb notes, if BBM had launched on other operating systems a year or two ago, it could be seeing those user figures by now. In addition to that, the fact that BBM will soon be available on other platforms also means that BBM fans who would not willingly leave the addictive chat ecosystem are now free to switch to the latest Android or iPhone.
Still, as Forbes points out, the decision to launch BBM cross-platforms means that BBM can become a greater tool for existing BlackBerry users, who will be able to use the app more for personal and work conversations with users on other platforms, and speak to a greater pool of contacts. The Android and iOS apps could also see rapid adoption in emerging markets like Indonesia and South Africa, where BlackBerry makes up a considerable chunk of the smartphone market, as the app would make it easier for the minority of iOS and Android users to converse on BlackBerry’s popular platform.
Although the app will be free, the initial version of BBM for Android and iOS will not have the same level of functionality as the one on BlackBerry devices. At launch, it will support basic BBM chats, multi-person chats, voice note sharing and BlackBerry groups with the ability to share calendars, photos and files to up to 30 people. The company says that voice and video chats will be option included in the iOS and Android apps later this year, pending approval from the App Store and Google Play.