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Blackberry Messenger for Android is too little, too late

Blackberry Messenger will be making its way to Android this summer, but isn't it a little too late to bring this aging app to a platform with plenty of decent alternatives?
May 15, 2013
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The clock is ticking for BBM

When I first saw this news pop up yesterday I was both amused and rather peeved, but no part of me was excited at the prospect of finally being able to use Blackberry Messenger. I was amused at the epic U-turn, after BlackBerry specifically stated last year that BBM would remain exclusive to Blackberry, and equally annoyed that the company now expects me to care, after turning its back on Android years ago.

I personally have no interest in BBM, but I appreciate that this release may be important for people with friends who are still using it, and that some of you will finally be able to share in the experience.

However, aren’t people still using Blackberry Messenger better off switching to Android?

Redundant software

I guess the crux of my complaint is who really needs Blackberry Messenger these days anyway? There are, and have been for a while, plenty of applications which do exactly the same thing and some which offer various improvements on the old formula.

Android certainly doesn’t need BlackBerry to save us from inferior quality services, third party developers solved our problems ages ago. So, if the only reasonable argument in favour of BBM is that other people still use it, then I’d argue that those people need to drop BBM instead, as there are plenty of superior alternatives available.

In fact, the Android version of BBM will be missing features available in plenty of other apps: we won’t be receiving voice or video chat, features which are commonplace with apps like Google Talk, and Android users will also be missing out on BBM Channel content sharing.

WhatsApp features audio, picture, video, and content sharing. Why would you settle for less?

Sounds like a bit of a raw deal, especially considering that apps like WhatsApp contain all the features that you’d possibly need — video chat, group calls, location sharing, the list goes on. What’s more, WhatsApp is available on BlackBerry, Android, and iOS, so there’s no excuse not to make the switch.

It’s for this reason that I don’t believe that BBM for Android is really going to matter. Customers who were sick of waiting for a cross-platform messaging service will have already made the switch to a competing app. To put this in perspective, although around roughly 60 million people use BBM, over 200 million are using WhatsApp. Will a cut down version of BBM be enough to make people switch? I think not.

If Blackberry wanted to make a big impact on Android, it needed to do something new, something to make us sit up and pay attention, rather than casually swaggering in on the back of a decaying reputation.

So why the long delay, BlackBerry?

Here’s the thing which really bugs me about this — BlackBerry had the opportunity to turn its messenger into a universally used service during the height of its popularity years ago. BBM had every chance to succeed across platforms and would have given consumers a decent product to use. Instead, Blackberry decided to keep it as a proprietary piece of software to tempt customers over to its own platform. But it expects us to flock to its messenger now that it needs the customers.

This delayed cross-platform release strikes me as nothing more than a transparently desperate grab for customers in the face of a dwindling market share. I’m sorry but you can’t have it both ways, Blackberry, you can’t keep things closed when it suits you and then expect the average consumer to still be interested years later.

Simply put, for most of us, Blackberry Messenger doesn’t matter any more, we’ve moved on. I’m sure that the app will attract a passable number of users at launch, but only those who want to chat with existing Blackberry owners. I certainly don’t see it attracting new users to the platform. Instead, it will most likely peter out once people trade in their old Blackberry’s for shiny new Android handsets.