BBM for Android and iOS: when will I get it?

16th Oct 2013 | 13:33

BBM for Android and iOS: when will I get it?

Is the launch finally upon us?

The news that BlackBerry's proprietary messaging service is coming across to the two largest mobile ecosystems has been around for a while.

The announcement that iOS and Android are both being treated to BBM was made at BlackBerry Live at the beginning of the summer.

It seems a little odd that the proprietary messaging systems that was at the heart of reasons why the BlackBerry handsets of old gained popularity, would make it onto other handsets.

It all began with BBM's popularity with business users now able to communicate quicker than ever, and more securely thanks to pin based usernames, and BlackBerry's ultra secure servers.

Many of BlackBerry's services have gained FIPS 140-2 or FIPS 140-1 validations, leading to use by NATO, as well as UK, US and Australian governments, amongst others.

As smartphone purchases became more common amongst younger audiences, BBM then gained popularity as a way to send instant messages and images to each other, without the need to break into their monthly text allowances.

Why is BBM going cross OS?

Asking why BBM is going cross OS could easily be titled 'where did it all go wrong for BBM?'.

As with any of these pieces written about BlackBerry, the rise of the iPhone (now it it's seventh and eighth iterations with the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C) can be heavily attributed to the demise of, and subsequent rise of cross OS BBM.

Being locked into the BlackBerry operating systems meant that users could only access the service if they were wielding one of the many BlackBerry devices, such as the BlackBerry Curve 8520 that became so popular amongst teenagers.

As iPhones gained in popularity, the user base for BBM declined rapidly. Consumers were skipping over BlackBerry handset offerings and opting for the iPhone or an Android handset instead.

Both the iOS and Android ecosystem thrived, at the expense of the once formidable Canadian company. Varying messaging apps were developed to make use of the mobile web, putting them in direct competition with BBM.

WhatsApp rose to fame, and is now one of the most popular and well known apps available for messaging available on iPhone, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone handsets.

Even Apple saw the merit and jumped on the IM bandwagon, integrating its proprietary iMessage service with the SMS app on the iPhone, tying users deeper into the Apple ecosystem.

BlackBerry is now looking to somehow regain the slice of the instant messaging pie, by launching across varying mobile operating systems.

There are some pitfalls though, as highlighted by Samsung's IM app, ChatOn. This is another cross OS messaging app found on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4, that began life solely Samsung devices. It has since struggled a little due to a lack of dedicated users.

BlackBerry has with a pre-existing base of users, both consumer and business however, so this could prove a shrewd move. Tempting users into BBM will offer BlackBerry the chance to show just how good their software is.

It will also allow them to target the prosumer market that the new BlackBerry handsets are aiming at.

For businesses tied into longer contracts on iPhone or Android handsets, the security of the BBM messaging system will once again allow them to again communicate securely without having to fork out for contract upgrades whilst giving BlackBerry some confidence that they might then opt for a new BlackBerry handset when their contracts expire.

Of course BlackBerry will hope that this will also rub off on the consumer market as it did before, with users potentially being tempted back into buying a BlackBerry like the BlackBerry Z30.

Why has it taken so long?

Had BlackBerry not run into the financial difficulties that have dogged it to a point that it is penning letters saying they aren't going anywhere; BBM might not have ever made it cross OS.

It was one of the key features and selling points of the BlackBerry ecosystem, one that has come under a lot of fire recently.

That said, as many will know, BBM for Android and iOS should already have launched.

September 21 was the scheduled launch for the Android app, with the iOS version due to land on the App store a day later. Unfortunately the iOS version went live a day early.

Combine that with 1.1 million downloads of a leaked BBM for Android Beta app, and the ensuing chaos led BlackBerry with no choice but to pull both apps.

BlackBerry said at the time that they were "focused on adjusting the system to completely block this unreleased version of the Android app when we go live with the official BBM for Android app" whilst also "making sure that the system is reinforced to handle this kind of scenario in the future".

It is pretty easy to imagine that systems were overloaded, with BlackBerry servers unready and unable to handle the large volumes of new users.

So I'll get BBM soon?

BlackBerry Chief Marketing Officer Franck Boulben told Reuters that the BBM launch for iOS and Android should be coming within the next couple of days.

The last reports said that BBM is set to bring messaging and groups across, with voice, screen share, video, and other features being added in later updates. Whether any new features have been added during this downtime has yet to be confirmed, although it looks unlikely.

For the moment, the planned launch of BBM on alternate OS' is limited to just iOS and Android, though that doesn't necessarily mean that BBM won't emigrate to other mobile operating systems in the future.

Suggestions that Windows Phone might be treated to a BBM app have been fuelled by BBM creator Gary Klassen, who told The Mobile Indian "BBM will not be limited to just Android or iOS. We are open to other platforms also."

He added that BlackBerry "want more people to enjoy and experience BBM". Could this be one of the future scenarios that BlackBerry is preparing for?

With Windows Phone gaining in popularity across the globe, doubling its share of the European market in a year, this could be a market that BlackBerry can't afford to miss, or maybe we're just hopeful that we're all going to share in the BBM love.

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