Here to battle with What’sApp: BBM for Android review

In the mid 2000s,almost every ‘cooperate’ tom dick and harry in the the country owned a BlackBerry phone, and it was a status symbol and having the phone obviously meant, you could use BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) the company’s lightning-fast messaging app, which rivaled text messages by far. You find like in the West most people especially the youth bought a BlackBerry just to be able to use BBM. It was the a hit back then as the planet’s best hardware keyboard was a swift sail with BBM, and it ushered in  a new wave of seamless messaging speed and accuracy. By that time chats and Instant Messaging (IM) was a desktop only affair for most of us.

Now few years down the road you can hardly hear of any one using BBM, personally i had even erased all my BBM contacts as i had aborted the service, all thanks to the advent of iPhones and Androids, and maybe a couple Windows Phones in the vicinity. It was a hard pill to swallow for Blackberry but the fact is that BBM had been replaced by  Whats App, Kik Messenger, iMessage,and Snapchat. In Uganda now the most popular chat app is Whats App  — for a simple reason that Android is the number one mobile OS and and the mere fact that it was and always been free on this platform. The evolutionary shift from BlackBerry to newer, more modern platforms is now done. After a long wait and teases  BlackBerry decided last week to launch the BBM app for iPhone and Android — perhaps its last chance at capitalizing on the brand equity the company once commanded.



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When I first downloaded the BBM app on my phone i wondered who i was going to chat with; lets face it there are very few BBM users in Uganda and the IM market is much more fragmented — each other country has its own favorite messaging app. But you will be surprised to know that ten million people worldwide have already downloaded BBM on Android and iPhone. I keep wondering if these ten million people are finding it hard switch between several messenger apps.

BBM for iPhone and Android shares almost nothing with the good old messaging app of the 2000s. The UI has been built to mimic every BB10 operating system effect, which means there are slide-out panes and panels abound.


In my interaction with this app it feels like  BlackBerry was trying to teach me how to use BB10 within the context of an app on another platform as it felt like i am using a Blackberry z 10 that is hiding inside my HTC One.  After installation you will see the BBM messenger icon in your notification shade 24/7 something i believe will get annoying for some people. On the bright side, most of BBM’s key characteristics do still exist: group messaging, one-on-one messaging, photo attachments, basic “status” messages you can display like Available and Busy, and even Ping. This is a totally annoying function especially if you want to dodge people who are nagging. With Ping, you can buzz a friend’s phone with just two taps. With the one person i added to my BBM for the sake of reviewing it I used BBM much so often chatting with our very own Farooq G.

Other than its basic core features, BBM brings nothing new to the table. The chaps at blackberry have still haven’t realized that we are in 2013 and not the 2008. It has no stickers, no video sharing like on Whats app. It wont come as a big surprise that you can’t share a contact or calendar event using BBM, as you could previously. Unlike Facebook Messenger or Viber there are no voice calls, and don’t expect video chats, like in Skype. Adding a contact is cumbersome and generally some people i have talked to found the user interface a bit congested truth be told other than the yearning it might generate, there are almost no ransoming qualities in BBM.


One thing i have loved about this app is the well thought out placement of the Send button in the bottom-right corner of the keyboard, my oh my you can quickly send with in a heartbeat. Most of the messaging apps like Google Hangouts, the Send button is located to the right of the text box — a small neglected but important detail. One of the things that made BBM so fast was that the BlackBerry’s Return button, which was close to the space bar, also operated as the Send button, and this remains the case.

As we all know if your friends don’t have a particular Messaging app then its success is purely doomed.  WhatsApp doesn’t have all the features like its competitors, but since over 400 million people worldwide use WhatsApp, I consider it the winning formula. The big question for Blackberry is how they will get people to start using this app in big numbers. Some say that  even if BBM had great messaging features (which it doesn’t), it would still need time to get back its fans.