BBM app for Android and iPhone gets update
iPad and iPods now supported.
BlackBerry has updated its BBM apps for Android and iOS - with the firm adding features and support for additional devices.
BBM will now work on iPad and iPod devices running iOS 6 and iOS 7. The app also improves language support and allows users to search their social network accounts for friends who are using BBM.
The Android edition of the app now supports BBM Contact Categories, allows users to port contacts for social networks and fixes issues with high battery drainage.
Despite BlackBerrys struggles in the smartphone market, the firm has proved there is still demand for its BBM service with the as the app was downloaded 20 million times in the first week by Android and iOS users.
The smartphone maker claims that it now has 80 million people actively using the BBM service, although this is still someway short of the 300 million users of existing cross-platform service Whatsapp.
Andrew Bocking, executive VP of BBM at BlackBerry said he was happy with the numbers, but the firm will now focus on providing more services.
“From here on out, we will focus on active users of BBM and will no longer focus on simple download numbers," he said.
Users who signed up at BBM.com, will get a headstart and should be able to use BBM on their Android or iOS device immediately. Those who didn't sign up will have to register and wait for an email before they can activate the app.
Despite the delay, uptake of BBM has proved incredibly popular, with the @BBM confirming the ten million user mark had been surpassed.
BBM: One week later and 20 million new users: http://t.co/zO24YcqG6o
— BBM (@BBM) October 29, 2013
The software was originally expected to debut on Android and iPhone devices on 21 and 22 September, respectively. However,this was scrapped after an incomplete version of BBM for Android appeared online hours before its official launch.
This unofficial app was downloaded by more than 1.1 million people during its first eight hours of availability.
The company has also revealed that around three million people have registered to be notified exactly when the app will be available.
In a statement, BlackBerry said it was heartened by the initial response to the release, despite the issues it has caused.
Guest editor Ken Deeks says:
BlackBerry just can't seem to get it right at the moment. What should have been a momentous weekend for the company has turned into something of a mess.
They may claim to be heartened by the initial response but after a hugely mis-managed launch, the market is again talking about Blackberry unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.
As a result, it confirmed that the worldwide rollout of the software for both iPhone and Android users has now been put on hold.
"Customers who have already downloaded BBM for iPhone will be able to continue to use BBM. The unreleased Android app will be disabled, and customers who downloaded it should visit www.BBM.com to register for updates on official BBM for Android availability," the statement continued.
"As soon as we are able, we will begin a staggered country rollout of BBM for Android and continue the rollout of BBM for iPhone," it concluded.
In a follow up statement, Andrew Bocking, head of BBM at BlackBerry, shed some further light on the technical issues caused by the unofficial, older release.
"This older version resulted in volumes of data traffic orders of magnitude higher than normal for each active user and impacted the system in abnormal ways," he explained.
"The version we were planning to release on Saturday addressed these issues, however we could not block users of the unreleased version if we went ahead with the launch."
As a result, the software is unlikely to see the light of day this week, as his team works to get the unreleased version taken out of circulation.
"We are also making sure that the system is reinforced to handle this kind of scenario in the future. While this may sound like a simple task – it’s not. This will take some time and I do not anticipate launching this week," he added.
However, as reported by IT Pro, BBM could be set to make its debut on iPhone and Android devices sooner rather than later, with the firm's CMO claiming the reworked software will be released "within days".
"Whoever is interested in BlackBerry understands the company has world class products and services. These are products and services that customers can continue to count on," he said.
The article also states that, as of Tuesday 15 October, six million users had already pre-registered for both versions of BBM.
Reports had previously suggested that BlackBerry was gunning for a summer launch, for both Apple and Android, but this failed to materialise.
— Alex Kinsella (@alexkinsella) September 6, 2013
Pictures and videos have been doing the rounds on the web showcasing a beta version of BBM on handsets. The app is expected to have many of the features that are on BlackBerry devices. This includes the ability to send text and voice messages. Below is a demo from BlackBerryOS.com.
What is BBM?
BlackBerry Messenger or BBM as it is commonly known was one of the first mainstream instant-messaging services on smartphones. The app comes preloaded onto BlackBerry devices allowing users to call, text, video chat and share screens with other BlackBerry users via 3G and free over Wi-Fi.
Using the BlackBerry Group feature, you can privately share calendar events, photos and other documents with up to 30 other BBM users.
How does it work?
Each BlackBerry devices is assigned a unique PIN – which acts as contact number. In theory these PIN-to-PIN messages are as secure as they come. Despite being able to send and receive messages in seconds, there is a complex four-step process for each message:
1. The first stop for a BBM PIN-to-PIN message is the user's mobile network.
2. The operator then forwards the message to a BlackBerry relay station in Canada.
3. From here message is transferred to BlackBerry’s mobile service provider
4. Finally, the (receiving) mobile service provider then transmits the message to the recipient.
Why is BlackBerry rolling out BBM to iOS and Android users now?
Blackberry is struggling to gain traction in the smartphone market, having spent the bulk of 2012 designing its BlackBerry 10 operating system. The firm lost many of its users to Android and iOS operating systems during this time.
Applications such as WhatsApp, which allow users to communicate over-cross platforms have also become hugely popular and at this moment in time are more useful than BBM.
BBM has an active user base of 60 million, compared to 200 million for WhatsApp. BlackBerry is hoping that by extending its app to Android and iOS, users will be encourage to buy its devices.
Will the Android and iOS versions have all the same features and functionality?
For the most part yes. iOS and Android users would be carry out all the regular BBM messaging services. The app will also allow them to share photos and voice notes, and engage in BBM Groups chats containing up to 30 people.
iOS and Android users will be able to add their contacts through PIN, email, SMS or QR code scan. BlackBerry says that Android users will also be able to connect using a compatible NFC-capable device.
Release date and pricing
BlackBerry confirmed on 18 September that BBM will be making its debut on Android devices on Saturday 21 September, and on Apple smartphones on Sunday 22 September, but was forced to backtrack on this after a leaked version of the software appeared online. The company is yet to announce a new release date for the software.
Once released, the BBM app will be available for free from the respective app stores.
This article has been updated on multiple occasions, and most recently on 11 November to to reflect the updates made to the app.