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BlackBerry launches BBM for Android and iOS devices

Popular messaging system will now be available on handsets from Apple and other manufacturers

BlackBerry will be making its popular Messenger app (BBM) available on Android and iOS devices in a brave attempt to attract new users and keep the failing smartphone manufacturer in business.

Previously exclusive to BlackBerry phones, the app will be available to Android users from noon on Saturday before being rolled out on the iPhone after midnight on Sunday. BlackBerry will not charge users to download the app.

Features include group conversations, files sharing and the ability to see when a contact has read a message. Unlike similar apps, BBM users add friends by swapping unique PINs, protecting their privacy and obviating the need to disclose a phone number or email address.

BBM’s move to non-BlackBerry devices has been the subject of much speculation and was originally announced at the BlackBerry Live conference in May.

Samsung Nigeria initially suggested via its Twitter account that it had won a three-month contract to offer BBM exclusively on their phones, but this was subsequently denied by BlackBerry’s BBM Communications Director Victoria Berry.

The release is likely to hurt sales of the already floundering BlackBerry as it makes one of its key products available on other platforms.

However, BlackBerry is hoping to take advantage of the fact that there is currently no market leader in the mobile messaging world, with users split between messaging apps such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Kik and newcomer Line.

BlackBerry’s BBM Executive Vice President, Andrew Bocking, said: “BBM is a very engaging messaging service that is simple to use, easy to personalize and has an immediacy that is necessary for mobile communications.”

“With more than a billion Android, iOS, and BlackBerry smartphones in the market, and no dominant mobile messaging platform, this is absolutely the right time to bring BBM to Android and iPhone customers.”

The statement came on a busy day for smartphone manufacturers. Earlier on Wednesday BlackBerry launched its Z30 smartphone and Apple released its iOS 7 operating system to customers.