This particular post focuses on BBM for the iPhone, but you can also use the BBM iOS app on an iPad.
Old school BlackBerry users who long for the days of BBM on their iPhone are going to find many of the familiar features they used to enjoy on their old BlackBerry devices. Figure A shows the menu options available on the left side of the app.
BBM menu options.
The features in BBM are much the same as I remember them from when I carried a BlackBerry. However, the BBM iOS definitely has gone through an iOS 7 update.
BBM remains an always-on chat service that lets you chat with one or many users. Now that BBM is open to BlackBerry, iOS, and Android users could open the service up to new use cases for organizations or project teams. BBM enables you to see when contacts respond to your message, watch the delivery, and read status of each BBM message you send. The real-time nature of BBM was cool back in the day. Now, it's pretty standard in iOS and Android messaging applications.
You can use BBM for group chats and sharing of pictures, lists, and appointments. Businesses that use BBM can extend groups to BBM users outside their contact lists. This might be a usable option for project teams working with clients directly. Creating a group in BBM can be done with a few taps. Figure B shows the Create Group screen.
Create Group screen.
There isn't much that distinguishes the BBM user profile from every other social profile that today's collaboration and enterprise social tools ask users to input. It lets you post a profile picture and update your status for other users. Figure C shows a BBM user profile.
BBM user profile.
Security and privacy settings
BlackBerry still offers a pin code as an option for security, especially with invites. My concern over the pin code is a question of usability. We may well be at a point where there are mobile users out there who have never touched a BlackBerry, meaning the concept of the pin code could be lost to them.
What I do like is that BBM users have two ways to opt-in, which gives them control over who can send them messages. This is a nice feature for corporate-owned devices.
Reports are also out that all BBM users not connected to BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) are on the same security key, making information you transmit via BBM scrambled but not encrypted. This is quite discouraging news because of Blackberry's legacy as a secure messaging platform.
Getting started with BBM… and finding a place to go
Pulling the launch date of BBM from last summer until recently didn't hurt initial interest in the app. There are many old BlackBerry users out there. I had signed up on the BlackBerry site months ago, still full of hope for the app after writing about the BlackBerry Z10.
I downloaded the BBM app when I heard that it was available from the App Store. The installation and account setup were routine for iOS communications apps on the market. However, once I got the app installed and my account online, I had no colleagues or friends online using BBM. Thinking back, BBM was one of the selling points that got me on the BlackBerry platform to begin with. The friend who sold me on moving to BlackBerry back then is now a long-standing Android user.
It's hard to see if BBM can regain that selling point, considering that enterprise and personal smartphone users have moved onto other enterprise and consumer social tools for mobile messaging. Users can help promote BBM on iOS and Android devices in 2013 by sending out invites (made easy by the app). Figure D shows the invite options available from the BBM Contacts screen.
Invite users to BBM.
It's time to look at BlackBerry as a legacy technology player. Their management missteps in previous years have hobbled a once dominant mobile technology player. It will be difficult for BBM, because so many other enterprise social tools now have the attention of enterprise mobile users. What are your thoughts about the success or failure of BBM? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.