The most notable thing BlackBerry did this year wasn’t the release of BlackBerry 10, Z10, or Q10. It wasn’t the company’s incessant courtship of potential acquisition bidders, or its hollow promise to remain competitive amid diminishing marketshare. It was the company’s announcement that BlackBerry Messenger, probably its most recognized and beloved feature, was heading to competing platforms. After a few hangups, it’s now available for both Android and iOS.
With so many terrific messaging platforms already on the market—and with huge daily usage statistics—BBM has a mountain to climb. But the Waterloo company is hoping the platform’s reputation will speak for itself, early launch jitters aside, and maybe even convert users over to the BlackBerry ecosystem permanently. So can a messaging service bring some life back to the flailing BlackBerry?
Seeing BBM run on iOS and Android is strange, sure, but still very recognizable. When you sign up (and get past the staggered line system), you’re immediately given a unique BBM PIN. This is the basis for all your communications across the platform, though you can invite people by barcode, email and SMS as well. Otherwise, BBM retains the features users are familiar with: you can add pictures and a voice note, add more people to a chat, Ping and copy the chat for future reference.
Chatting with a group is a bit more feature-rich, and is designed to be more of a collaborative environment. Here you’ll be able to add chats about specific topics, upload photos, add lists and create events. As far as productivity tools go, the feature is pretty awesome for communicating with a lot of co-workers at once—for us, I can see it being particularly useful when we’re on the road at an event like CES.
The app itself runs smoothly and so far I haven’t run into any hiccups. Navigating (I used iOS, while Jon download it on Android) is fairly straightforward, as is beginning and carrying on conversations. Each message you send and receive is given a small time stamp along with either a “D” or “R” to designate that it’s been delivered and read, and hopping into settings or seeing an overview of your notifications is just a tap away. In settings, by the way, you can see options such as save chat history, show country and time, and edit blocked contacts.
Some notable features that are absent include the ability to share someone’s screen, and you also can’t video chat, but BlackBerry has said more features will come in the future. Also worth noting: you can only sign in to one device per account, which is bit of an inconvenience for those who have multiple handsets.
Messaging over a data connection isn’t exactly new these days, and with many users opting for options like Kik, WhatsApp, Hangouts and iMessage, BBM doesn’t really have any big benefits over what’s available. Sure, it still has plenty of mindshare, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’ll unseat the now more established alternatives as the go-to platform. At least now you can communicate with your work buddies still stuck with a BlackBerry device.
Per CNET, you can actually bypass the waiting queue, though we haven’t actually had success on an Android device. Apparently, you’re supposed to download the app, enter in your email address and then hit Next. Once you do that, force quit the app, and then relaunch it. You should then be able to set up your account and proceed as normal.