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.
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.