Blackberry extends free BBM chat app to Android and iOS


BlackBerry’s popular chat app BBM is to launch on rival platforms for the first time, as the phone maker looks to capitalise on the growing demand for wi-fi alternatives to text messages.

Watch this video explaining how BBM works on the Blackberry platform;


The BBM app will remain free on both the Play Store and iTunes, and is set to launch this summer.

The move will see BlackBerry roll out basic group chat features and regular messaging, with plans for voice calls and other advance features to follow.

Blackberry chief executive Thorsten Heins revealed the surprise news at the end of his presentation at the firm's annual developers conference in Orlando, Florida.

The company said that more than 60 million Blackberry owners already used BBM at least once a month.

But Heins played down the idea that offering the feature to rival devices would harm sales of the Canadian company's own handsets.

"You might ask the question why is Blackberry doing this now," said Heins. "It's a statement of confidence. The Blackberry 10 platform is so strong and the response has been so good that we are confident the time is right for Blackberry Messenger to become an independent multiplatform messaging solution."

He added that for the app to work iPhone users would need at least iOS 6 and Android users the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Google's software. There was no mention of Windows Phone.

Rise of chat apps

The move will place BBM is direct competition with Skype, Whatsapp and others in the growing chat app sector, offering consumers a free wi-fi based alternative to texts.

A recent report from the Financial Times found that that there were more instant messages being sent daily by the end of last year than there were text messages.

In terms of figures it asserts that 41 billion app, based messages will be sent each day this year - that's double the number of text messages.

The data, collected for the Financial Times by telecoms and media consultancy Informa, highlights the rapid rise of a technology that did not exist five years ago but is seen by some as a potential challenger to Facebook’s dominance in social networking.

According to the data, 19 billion messages were sent each day in 2012 via chat apps compared to 17.6 billion from SMS. This highlights the huge growth chat apps have experienced in recent months as users look to avoid SMS fees, and those numbers are only projected to grow.

Informa believes chat apps will receive 50 billion messages each day by 2014 compared to 21 billion texts. The increase is in part due to the proliferation of smartphones.

New Blackberry phone

Blackberry also announced a new smartphone powered by its BB10 system - the first to be targeted at emerging markets.

The Q5 features a physical Qwerty keyboard and a 3.1in (7.9cm) touchscreen.

The Blackberry 10 device will be released in parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America in July.

It should be cheaper than the Z10 and Q10 which were unveiled in January.
However, the firm has yet to confirm pricing.

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