You may have heard that BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for Android and iOS is out. Chances are, you’ve already installed the app on your Android smartphone. You might either be a former BlackBerry user who wants to have a piece of the good old days of BBM instant messaging, or a new user curious about what the app had to offer.
I would consider myself platform agnostic and I have used a mix of Android, iOS, Symbian, Windows and BlackBerry devices in the past few years. One of the things I got hooked on was messaging through BBM, and I wanted to see if it would still be as handy as it used to be.
And so when the app officially came out, I promptly installed, keyed in my email address — which, thankfully, did not have to go through the long queue — then logged in using my (old) BlackBerry ID and was welcomed by the fresh, new BBM welcome screen. But that’s just it: I got a blank contact list. I realized I had to propagate my friend list manually, unlike many of those new cross-platform IM apps that automatically added your friends for you.
Which got me thinking: since all of my online contacts are on Skype, LINE, Viber, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, anyway, why not just stick to those apps instead? If you’re now running BBM for Android, you might think the same thing. Is it worth installing yet another cross-platform messaging application when you can easily access everyone through other apps anyway?
Still, BBM does have its benefits, and here are a few.
It’s cheap. Among BlackBerry’s holdout markets are emerging markets in Asia, Africa and South America, where data plans are not as prevalent as they are in the west. BBM is popular because the service is cheap, offering unlimited and international messaging for a fraction of the cost of regular SMS. For example, in Indonesia, Philippines and South Africa, the basic, unlimited, BBM service costs only the equivalent of US$2.50 per month, and no separate data plan is required.
For BBM for Android and iOS, it’s even free, although you will need to have a separate data subscription or WiFi connectivity.
It’s collaborative. The enterprise market is one of BlackBerry’s bigger clientele, and BBM actually started out as an enterprise collaboration tool. Its Groups feature is still a feature-packed offering, even if compared with today’s group chat apps. With BBM for Android and iOS, group chats offer calendars, task lists and multimedia sharing, for up to 30 users.
It can be a good way to plan events and activities, or just keep in touch with a group of friends, colleagues, classmates or family members.
It’s secure and private. How many contact requests do you get on your other chat apps? How about friend requests on Facebook? These apps are meant to get you as many contacts as possible, and you probably get a handful of contact requests on a daily basis. Because BBM works on PINs and not mobile numbers, you are not likely to get dozens of contact requests per day, unless you publicly share your BBM PIN. BlackBerry does not flood your contact list with automatically-matched profiles unlike most apps that use your mobile number.
BlackBerry has not even released video chats, voice calling and Channels for its cross-platform BBM, but the company promises to include these in subsequent updates.
If you haven’t tried out BBM for Android, this might be a good time to check it out.
Update: You might also want to check out Michael McGuire’s 10 reasons why he uses BBM, which likewise focus on these same points.