A BlackBerry Ltd. (NASDAQ:BBRY) representative told the International Business Times that the BlackBerry Messenger, or BBM, team is still “working around the clock” to release BBM for Android and iPhone (iOS). But Victoria Berry, the BlackBerry rep, said the company has “not announced a new timeline in terms of when BBM will come to Android and Apple devices.”
Update (10/15/13): BlackBerry's Frank Boulben told Reuters he expects BBM for Android and iPhone to launch "within days," and that the company was confident it had fixed the issues that plagued the original release last month.
BBM became popular long before the modern smartphone, as a standout feature on BlackBerry’s slew of keyboard-toting feature phones allowing users email access on the go. BBM for Android and iPhone will offer the same notifications for when a message is delivered and read as on BlackBerry devices -- a move that some analysts said could hurt handset sales for the struggling manufacturer, as BBM is still a draw for consumers in certain regions.
Berry said BlackBerry 10, or BB10, is “an incredibly powerful OS,” and that -- along with BlackBerry smartphones such as the Q10 and new Z30 and “everything we are building around that system” -- it will remain a draw for customers, despite the rollout of BBM on Android and Apple mobile devices. Berry denied that the failed launch of BBM for Android and iOS was merely a ploy to show the app’s popularity, thereby raising the value of the BlackBerry’s BBM arm before any potential sale of part, or all, of the company.
“We want to lead this space,” Berry said. “The team is working around the clock to relaunch BBM for Android” and iPhone.
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What Features Will BBM For Android And iPhone Users Lack, Compared With The BB10 Version?
Berry confirmed that BBM for Android and iPhone will have some, but not all, of the features found in the BB10 version of the app. BBM on all platforms will offer instant messages using a smartphone’s data plan as an alternative to the short message service, or SMS, texts for which mobile providers sometimes charge premiums. While BBM on BlackBerry devices allows users to make video calls over 3G/4G mobile networks and voice calls over Wi-Fi, the Android and iPhone versions of the software will not launch with the same capability.
“We are not going to publish a timeline, but we are committed to bringing those [voice and video-calling] features to all users.” Berry also offered a noncomprehensive list of the features that will make their way into BBM for Android and Apple devices, “such as multiperson chat, regular chat, sharing of voice notes, video files as well as BBM groups -- with chats of up to 30 people, a shareable calendar, and the ability to share files and photos.”
Compared with competitors such as WhatsApp, Viber and Kik Messenger (BlackBerry recently settled a lawsuit with Kik, as noted by the Globe and Mail), Berry said that BBM offers more features and a “conversation flow happening very quickly between people.”
Berry elaborated, “We see that most messages sent on BBM are read within 20 seconds, and we have people using BBM on average 90 minutes a day.” She also touted the app’s use of a personal identification number for connecting over BBM, rather than a phone number, which offers greater privacy for users.
IBTimes reports on the top 5 alternatives to BBM for Android and iPhone.
A Failed Launch Of BBM For Android And IOS
BlackBerry originally said that it would release a cross-platform version of BBM sometime “this summer” that would allow users to message between Android, iPhone and the company’s own BB10 operating systems. BlackBerry later clarified that it meant the “North American” definition of summer, thereby giving BBM for Android and iPhone a Sept. 21 release date. The week before Sept. 21, BlackBerry announced that BBM for Android and iPhone would release over the weekend, but the rollout was troubled, and eventually canceled.
More than three weeks later, those who were able to download BBM for iOS are still able to use the instant-messaging app, but Android users who installed the leaked package file (.apk) are not able to use the messenger app. In a blog post, Andrew Bocking, BlackBerry executive vice president and head of BBM, explained that the version of BBM for Android that leaked was an older version, which “resulted in volumes of data traffic orders of magnitude higher than normal for each active user and impacted the system in abnormal ways.”
Despite currently operating only on BlackBerry handsets and a handful of iPhones, BBM has an active user base of more than 61 million worldwide, with 70 percent of them daily users, according to the company.
Follow Thomas Halleck on Twitter for the latest on BBM on Android and iPhone.