BBM for Android Review

BBM for Android Review

Oct 24, 2013

Yes, BlackBerry (formerly RIM) has had better days. The iconic technology company made devices that signified corporate success and helped shape the smartphone market. It’s current troubles are well known, and the company and its devices have arguably lost some of their previous luster.

One piece of the BlackBerry ecosystem that has always been well regarded is BlackBerry Messenger, its eponymous messaging system. Its always-on nature, perceived reliability and PIN-based connection service is almost universally respected, even by non-BlackBerry device users. So, when BlackBerry announced that it would be opening up the hitherto proprietary messenger to iOS and Android users, ears perked up.

One less-than-optimal launch attempt and a successful follow-up try later, we have it: BBM on Android.bbm1

The app itself has stylings similar to BBM on BB10, with black, blue and white making up most of the color presentation. The menu button is part of the bottom dock, and it, along with the status bar, bookend buttons for Chats, Contacts and Groups. Space feels well-used; no cramped over-used space is present, and the white background mostly complements the chatting “surface.”

The sign-up process included a queue, but folks that already had the prerequisite BBIDs got in relatively early. The sign-in generates the well-known PIN, and soon after, I was up and running. By default, the app puts a persistent notification in the notification pane, which I did not like, but it can be toggled off in Settings. It’s friendly with barcodes with regards to joining groups and adding contacts and there are several other ways to effect connections, including via NFC.

The good things are still there: read and delivered confirmations, instant transmissions and group chat functionality. I especially like the last feature; in my mind, no modern day chat client is good without it.

The always-on nature is somewhat of a double-edged sword for me because as far as I can tell, there is no way to mute individual chats; it’s all or nothing. For people in group chats, this can be irritating, because depending on how chatty the people are, there will be a LOT of notifications. Signing out isn’t intuitive either.

When compared to the big boys, like Google Hangouts, it’s clear that the videochat functionality is missed, particularly since it already exists on BB10 as BBM Voice and Video. I also disliked the fact that only one device can be signed into at a time; if you have multiple devices, or chat on desktop, BBM is currently lacking a bit.

But BlackBerry says improvements are to come; when measured as a traditional messenger, BBM is not shabby at all, and may end up being the crown jewel of a new BBRY. If initial downloads are an indicator, it may do very well in the cross-platform space.

BlackBerry Messenger Coming to Android

BlackBerry Messenger Coming to Android

May 14, 2013

For folks who cut their smartphone teeth with RIM BlackBerry devices, the PIN-driven BlackBerry Messenger invokes cool memories. It was — is — a fantastic messaging application that allowed users to communicate without having to give up stuff like email. It was the crown jewel of the BlackBerry ecosystem.

Since its heyday, things have changed. RIM’s fortunes changed significantly, and the company’s leadership underwent major churn. It recently launched its new BB10 OS, dropped the name RIM to become known as BlackBerry, and with BB10 came a souped-up, bionic BBM system with videochat and screenshare functionality that took a fantastic messaging service and blasted it into the stratosphere.

And now, today, at BlackBerry Live event in Orlando, it was announced that BBM will be coming to Android and iOS this summer.

It initially won’t be on par with the BB10 version. Features like video chat will be coming in the future. In a world dominated by services like Whatsapp, it’s tough to see any new cross-platform entrant doing major damage, but BBM comes with a formidable user base still.

BBM on Android: if you had asked me 4 or 5 years ago, I would have taken that bet. But hey, things change. In this case, the consumer wins. Long live BBM, and long live choice.