Having spent most of my career in the Washington, DC area,
the BlackBerry was a common sight on mass transit and out in public. However,
many people — myself included — have migrated to the iPhone or an Android smartphone over the past few years. Therefore, it’s good news that BBM (BlackBerry
Messenger), one of the potential saviors of the BlackBerry legacy, is now
available for iOS and Android.
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
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.