BBM for Android and iOS - Review

Screenshots of the BBM app on various phones

We know there is an IM app for BlackBerry devices called BlackBerry Messenger, which reigned on BlackBerry land in which Skype and the like are not interested in. Now all that is settled, BlackBerry ventures into Android and iOS territory. It won’t use the long fruity name so ostentatiously. We, therefore, have BBM, a bit like KFC. So, we have a BBM app for Android and one for iOS devices (iPhone and iPad).

Why Use BBM on Android and iOS?

This was one of the questions we asked ourselves when learning about BBM. We are not a fan of BlackBerry, neither are we against it. We respect the position it holds regarding the ease of typing on handheld devices during the days when Android wasn’t even on paper. Now that it has lost considerable ground, this is a curious way of wanting to get it back.

It may stand as an appeal to those BlackBerry users of the old times that converted to Androidism and Appleism (allow us those terms), in bringing back some souvenirs or to say “we’re back in business.” Or to Android and iOS users that have not known the giant that BlackBerry once was, introducing the legend.

One major reason, for which many people will want to use BBM, is to be able to make free voice calls to their contacts who are BlackBerry users since calls are free between BBM users.

Anyhow, BBM comes with what it takes to make it comparable with the other key players in this field. One considerable drawback is the small number of users, but this is normal for a beginner app. Once it gets viral, numbers increase exponentially.

The Strengths of BBM

Compared to other apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype, BBM is robust and delivers messages very fast. In this respect, it beats everyone. It also gives you more privacy and control over your contact and your status. For instance, when you send a message or a multimedia element, you can set a timer to control the amount of the time the recipient can view it, after which it disappears.

You can also ‘retract’ or retrieve a message that you have already sent. All of us must have wished we could withdraw some messages after we accidentally or unwisely sent them. BBM alone allows this.

The latest version of BBM incorporates voice calling for free between BBM users, as Viber allows. This is one step ahead of WhatsApp which still hasn’t allowed free voice calling over the app, although this may change soon.

BBM Features

Here is a summary of the major features of BBM:

  • The use of PINs instead of phone numbers and email addresses to identify a user on the network. this provides more privacy.
  • The timer feature allows you to set the length of time for which your contact can view the content you sent them.
  • You can retract messages and other objects you sent. It will be deleted from your contact’s device.
  • Free texting between BBM users.
  • Free voice calling between BBM users.
  • Your location is shared with your contacts who can view it live on a map
  • Group voice chat with a number of people
  • Emoticons
  • Channels and communities for chatting and sharing. You can create your own channel or join existing channels based on interests.

Getting Started With BBM

We installed and used BBM on an Android device. Everything went smoothly and fast. The app is not too big, and the interface is quite clean and simple, just like other VoIP apps or IMs for mobile phones. Once downloaded and installed, you can sign up by entering your email address, a username, and a password. Nothing more. These will be your credentials for future log in.

You are then provided with a string of 8 digits that represents your PIN. You don’t have to learn it by heart as it seems the system takes care of identifying you through it. It appears quite funny, especially in the chat channels where you see these number shown along each channel – like prisoner numbers. It is mainly used to enforce privacy, such that you don’t need to give away your email address or phone number to new contacts. They have to contact you through your PIN. Your PIN is unique to your BlackBerry ID and your device.

The rest of the job is quite simple, and it is easy to find your way around the interface. You can create or invite your contacts and communicate straight away.

The Cost

The app is free for Android and iOS, and calls made using it are free as well. They are free provided the called party is a registered BBM user. BBM uses WiFi, and 3G data to make the VoIP calls. You should consider the cost associated with data plans to estimate the cost of your call. 

There is no possibility of making calls from BBM to parties with landline phones.