Editorial by Andrew Kameka on Monday October 28, 2013.
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BlackBerry Messenger has now truly gone cross-platform. A staged launch on Android and iOS last week led to more than 10 million downloads of the app, but many users were forced to wait in a queue until granted permission. The wait list has been removed and now anyone can join BBM. Sadly, it?s kind of tough to make that happen.
We knew it wouldn't be easy for BlackBerry's messaging client to return to its former greatness. There was a time when millions of people eagerly exchanged BBM PINs and spent hours sharing messages, photos, and locations. That time has since passed. Yes, tens of millions of people still use BBM every day, but hundreds of millions use other services like WhatsApp. BlackBerry needs to offer something truly unique or at least get its faded brand recognition shiny once again.
At a recent family gathering over the weekend, I took a quick survey of the room and found that only one other person has installed BBM since its launch. The iPhone users were content to rely on iMessage and their unlimited texting options to meet their messaging needs. The Android users were satisfied with WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger because they can speak to Android and iOS friends for free. Why bother with a new app? My family in the Caribbean and Latin America, where BlackBerry still enjoys higher levels of popularity, love BBM. I've connected with a few of them, but no one who I interact with on a frequent basis has bothered to care.
I've been using Facebook Messenger as my primary messaging client because it's so much easier to find people to talk to. There's no need to deal with awkward PIN exchanges or scan QR codes because Facebook already knows my friends and knows what they are using. BBM's survival depends on the company introducing an easier way to make those exchanges happen, but until then, it has to at least focus on getting people in the door. Several of the people I follow on Twitter went through the trouble of downloading BBM for Android, saw that a wait list was required, and then promptly uninstalled. Another person I met had so many errors attempting to scan my PIN that we abandoned the process (an update has been released to fix the problem, and the BBM Share page can connect with Facebook).
Chatting with a colleague on BBM, we both agreed that BBM for iOS has potential, and the app isn't bad. BBM's appeal is that it gives us a chance to have instant chats with Android-wielding friends, and BBM has the name recognition that might encourage more to adopt it. However, he is one of the few people I know who is actively going to give the app a fair shot. Now that the #BBM4All campaign actually means "all" and not "All that can fit on our servers at the moment," maybe BBM will pick up some much need steam.
UPDATE:BlackBerry reports 20 million people joined BBM since the launch on Android and iOS. Let's hope that momentum carries over.
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.