BlackBerry's BBM Messenger begins phased roll-out: 'Next 5 million in line - your turn!'


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The Independent Tech

The launch of BlackBerry’s BBM messaging app has finally begun, with the app rolling out to customers today after a proposed launch last month was delayed by leaked software.

The app is being made available to customers in phases, with BlackBerry’s blog instructing users to download the app from the iOS app store or the Google Play Store and enter their email. They will then receive a message when the app is ready to use.

BlackBerry are reporting that “in just seven hours, about one million Android users were using the unreleased version of BBM for Android,” and that they are currently serving the “next 5 million in line”.

Users who signed up for email notifications about BBM messenger back in September will have been the first in line to get access to the app, though BlackBerry are promising that “our team of developers and engineers has been working around the clock to bring you BBM – and make some upgrades while we’re at it.”

Early feedback from customers have reported that the app is essentially a straight port from BlackBerry devices, with the same layout (swipe from the left for access to conversations, contacts and groups; swipe from the right for help, settings, and inviting friends, etc) used in both iOS and Android.

However, certain features such as Voice and Video Chat are only available through the BlackBerry 10 operating system, and the app is missing several functions such as contact sharing and video file transfers available to competitors like WhatsApp, WeChat and Line.

The interest around BBM must be heartening for a company whose future is so uncertain, but the messenger-app market has changed since BlackBerry had its heyday. It may still have relatively high support in the UK, but globally the market now belongs to competitors such as WeChat and Line.

Speaking at the NokiaWorld event in Abu Dhabi today, rival OTT (over the top) messenging app WhatsApp announced that the company had now hit 350 million monthly active users.

WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum also announced that the app would be directly integrated into three new Nokia Asha devices – low-budget handsets aimed at the developing market. With sales of Asha devices going strong in developing markets, WhatsApp aren’t looking for the next 5 million users, they’re looking for the next 350 million.