x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Plan to share BBM app with other phones gets mixed reaction from BlackBerry fans

Announcement by Blackberry that a version of BBM, which allows users to communicate with each other for free, was to be released for Android and iPhone has been greeted with mixed reactions.

DUBAI // For years it has been the phone of choice for businessmen and teenagers alike, but could BlackBerry’s status as the go-to mobile for instant messaging soon be a thing of the past?

Last week’s announcement by its owners that it intended to release a version of its hugely popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service, which allows users to communicate with each other for free, for Android and iPhone has been greeted with mixed reactions, with some loyal BlackBerry users seeing it as possibly the beginning of the end.

“The thinking behind spreading BBM across platforms was to raise awareness about what the service can do among people who previously owned other handsets and encourage them to buy BlackBerrys,” said Omar Abushaban, operations manager for Plug Ins.

“In the short term going cross platform with BBM won’t have much of an negative impact for them but in the longer term I can see a decrease in sales.

“The only reason many people still have a BlackBerry is because of BBM, so if that is now available to everyone there is less incentive for them to buy the phones.”

For longtime BlackBerry users, BBM has proven so important to their daily lives that they’ve found it hard to leave behind when changing handsets, with people switching between two mobiles.

“For apps and multi-media I use my Android phone but a lot of my friends are still on BBM so I’ve kept my BlackBerry just for that,” said Saima Al Khori, from Bahrain.

“I will continue to use my BlackBerry but I don’t think having BBM open to Android and iPhone will encourage anyone else to buy a BlackBerry now. There is no reason.”

John Franklin, a British businessman who has been using his BlackBerry for five years, agreed.

“For emails and instant messaging it is still the best. Like most people I have WhatsApp for messaging between different platforms, but BBM is far easier to use in my opinion.

“Some people might decide to get the new BlackBerry 10 phone but I think the company have shot themselves in the foot by releasing BBM for other platforms.

“It was probably the killer app and now it’s going to be made available to everyone.”

On Monday a consortium lead by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited announced it would buy the troubled handset maker in a deal valued at approximately US$4.7 billion (Dh17.2bn) subject to due diligence after BlackBerry earlier warned it would make a quarterly operating loss of nearly US$1bn and cut 4,500 jobs.

On the same day it was also forced to release a statement saying the roll out of its BBM messaging service had been delayed after a leaked Android version overloaded its systems.

It is unclear when the app will be available for download on iPhone and Android devices.

However, Mr Abushaban insisted demand for BlackBerry would remain high among businesses because of the secure nature of its email and messaging service.

“I own a BlackBerry and an Android and if wasn’t for the enterprise services for work I would be hard pressed to justify continued use of the BlackBerry,” he said. “But with the company in such a volatile state no one wants to buy into something that has an uncertain future.”

Despite problems elsewhere, BlackBerry’s popularity has stood firm in the region in the face of competition from other smartphones that use paid for instant messenger apps, with the company last year claiming a 140 per cent increase in subscribers in the Middle East in the year up to August.

However, its success in the Middle East was not without its share of problems. Users have experienced sporadic outages to service, and in October 2011 a system-wide failure left tens of millions of frustrated BlackBerry users across five continents without email, messaging and browsing.

nhanif@thenational.ae