BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is probably the most favorite app of diehard BlackBerry fans. It’s easy to use and makes messaging through Blackberry devices an easy thing to do and quickly become used to doing. It also serves as a prominent mobile social network for many Blackberry users.
With that in mind, Research in Motion (RIM) has continued to invest in the capability, and today announced it has now launched version 7, which will be provided to users as a free update. The company has done an excellent job of making BBM easy to use – it is a hallmark of the service, and RIM knows it – hence the continued investments.
A key new feature of the update - which has been well received in beta testing - will allow users to make free voice calls on a global basis to any BBM 7 contacts over a Wi-Fi connection. The feature is a fast, convenient – and most important an inexpensive means of staying connected with coworkers and colleagues and increasingly with friends and family as well. BBM does require a BlackBerry service plan.
The BBM 7 Voice feature specifically requires that other BBM users must also be on BBM 7 and connected to Wi-Fi (of course) in order for the new BBM Voice to establish a voice connection.
Through a recently conducted survey RIM gleaned some interesting statistics from its large pool of beta users:
- Over 80 percent of beta testers say that they are likely to recommend BBM 7.
- 90 percent of testers say that they will use BBM Voice while travelling to keep in touch.
- Nearly half of BBM 7 testers have international contacts and will definitely benefit from free Wi-Fi calls.
T.A. McCann, vice president of BBM and Social Communities at RIM, notes that, “BBM began as a convenient and effective business messaging tool, and today it is an essential part of daily communications for BlackBerry customers around the world. Now, with BBM version 7, customers have a new option: they can text and talk with their BBM contacts near and far, for free. With the integrated experience, we extend the core features of reliable, real-time engagement to include voice calling and take BBM to the next level.”
From a certain perspective this is yet another of those RIM moves that should strike one as more of an “It’s about time” than anything particularly new or revolutionary to the world of mobility. Hopefully, once the Blackberry 10 launch takes place on January 30, 2013 RIM will move to at least try to stay one step ahead of the curve (that means we hope RIM is able to offer true innovation) instead of several steps behind it. Doing so will be critical to any hoped for recovery.
What Else is New in BBM 7 with BBM Voice?
- Simple BlackBerry ID Synchronization: Users’ BBM profiles, groups and contacts are now linked to their BBIDs for easy backup and restore. Also important to note is that the data will also carry over when users move to BlackBerry 10.
- Direct BBM Update Notification: BBM 7 will notify users when there is are updates from within the app, and will allow them to download immediately from inside the app.
- Multitasking with Split-screen: Users can do more while talking, such as check other BBM text chats, check email, or navigate to other apps while engaged on a BBM Voice call. Users can start a call in an instant, and switch between texting and talking, or text and talk at the same time. Users can also do such things as send a picture to a contact while they are having a voice chat.
- Clear Visual Indicator: Users are always able to see when contacts are available for a voice call.
- 16 New Emoticons: Available in the final software released today, customers will see a slate of new emoticons. Thank goodness for this!
BBM 7 with BBM Voice is now available for use all BlackBerry smartphones that run BlackBerry OS 6 or higher. BBM Voice will also be available for older BlackBerry OS 5 users early next year as well. The BBM 7 software update can be immediately downloaded for free.
Edited by Braden Becker