• Motorburn
      Because cars are gadgets
    • Gearburn
      Incisive reviews for the gadget obsessed
    • Ventureburn
      Startup news for emerging markets
    • Jobsburn
      Digital industry jobs for the anti 9 to 5!

Here’s the problem with BBM for Android and iPhone

BlackBerry is understandably making a big deal about the 10-million downloads of BBM for iPhone and Android it saw in the first 24 hours. That’s a massive number. Compare it with the previous unofficial record set by Angry Birds Space, which saw 10-million downloads over three days when it was released in 2012.

But, there are a few problems with the 10 million number… It doesn’t yet put BBM as a platform back into a strong growth position. The latest figures put BBM users at 61-million of BlackBerry’s total worldwide user-base of 76-million. With the additional 10-million new users, it’s up, but still nowhere close to the top three.

And those 10-million aren’t all “users” — yet. Well, technically they are, but it remains to be seen how many remain ‘active monthly users’ in a few months’ time.

Of BlackBerry’s existing BBM (active monthly) user-base — the 61-million — only 70% use it daily. That’s relatively low for such a sticky platform.

So, BlackBerry has managed to get its base to around 70-million. It needs to catapult it through 100-million to be anywhere close to a realistic competitor to the market leaders.

The current market leader, WhatsApp, has 350-million active monthly users. That’s up 50-million since August. It’s entirely possible that it’ll hit 400-million by year-end.

WeChat has 500-million registered users — of which 100-million are outside of China (at the end of August). WeChat has been boosted by the global TV ad campaign featuring football star Lionel Messi. Only half of those 500-million — around 250-million are active on a monthly basis.

Line’s also right up there, with 200-million active users out of a total of 270-million.

But it’s not just these three. There are at least a dozen messaging apps that have attracted 100-million users. Viber, Kakao, Kik, Skype, Facebook Messaging… all popular to varying degrees… some are only known/used in specific regions.

Importantly, BlackBerry needs to sustain this momentum — or at the very least make sure demand doesn’t dry up to a trickle in the coming days.

There is a major problem with the “BBM for all” strategy, though — and one which BlackBerry is surely aware of. Once BBM progressed to Android, it took away the only reason for millions of users to stay wedded to the platform.

We’ll see the rapid decline of market share in traditional BlackBerry strongholds like Indonesia in the coming quarters. Consumers are slowly being weaned off flat-rated, all-you-can-eat BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) data. This switch is quickening as data bundle prices come down, and as innovation on BlackBerry OS 7 devices stutters.

It feels like opening BBM up at this late stage is last throw of the dice type-stuff.

BBM may very well turn into a decent size business. A lot depends on how much it innovates on the platform. BBM already looks (very) dated on iOS 7 — understandable, given that it built it for iOS 6.

One can’t help thinking what would’ve happened if BlackBerry was brave enough to make this move two years ago. It would’ve been the market leader.

Releasing BBM widely at the end of 2013 is simply too late…

Author | Hilton Tarrant: Columnist

Hilton Tarrant: Columnist
Hilton Tarrant is production editor at Moneyweb. His main focus is project management for the listed company’s local and international websites, and contributes to their strategic direction. From time-to-time, he also fills in for Alec Hogg on the SAfm Market Update with Moneyweb radio programme. In between, he covers... More
  • Ian Huntly

    Too little too late. BBN is irrelevant now.

  • downloaded it. got annoyed waiting for my queue. finally signed in and see nothing special. everything feels so 90s. and the now video share is a fail. uninstalled in less than 12 hours of using it.

  • Brinley

    I disagree. I haven’t used bbm in like two years but now that its available I’ve found myself using it more than whatsapp. And quite frankly I think wechat doesn’t stand a chance. No one actually uses it regardless of how many “users” they have. My prediction is bbm will grow and whatsapp will get rid of their R7.99 per year subscription. They’ve already made it free on the App Store, most probably as a preemptive move with the knowledge of bbm being released. Anyways. Just my opinion. I guess time will tell.

  • Hilton Tarrant

    WhatsApp is now free on the App Store because it wanted to get iOS in line with its subscription model on all other platforms. I agree that WeChat has a (very) mountain to climb to be relevant outside of China. But this messaging market is very competitive and very fluid.

  • em

    BBM you idiot..

  • This article completely missed the plot where BB is no longer device/handset driven oriented

  • MC Wong

    Let’s hope the worse case doesnt happen – phone sales drop with users jumping to android and bbm takes off too slow due to missing core features. Bbm has to bring up those features real soon before the enthusiasm wanes.

  • Murcie

    WeChat sucks! Always crashes. Whatsapp is more stable but I don’t quite fancy giving my phone number to EVERYONE that wants to chat with me. Since you asked for my number, you might as well call me! I still prefer BBM. You can still fend off stalkers and remain anonymous.

More in BlackBerry

BlackBerry says it didn't post all those positive BBM reviews, promise

Read More »