BBM Set For Android And iOS Arrival, Ahead Of Z30 Launch

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

BlackBerry’s popular BBM is to finally arrive on Android and iOS devices this weekend

BlackBerry has managed to post two pieces of positive news amid the doom and gloom surrounding the Canadian smartphone maker.

The company announced on Wednesday that its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) will be made available for download on Android and iOS devices from this weekend. And the company has launched a new touchscreen smartphone, the Z30.

BBM arrival

According to BlackBerry, BBM will start be rolled out globally as a free download from Saturday 21 September.

blackberry 10 bbm video chat and screen shareAndroid users running Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean (Android 4.x) will be the first to download the app from 7am EDT. Apple users running iOS 6 and iOS 7 will have to wait until 12:01am local time on Sunday 22 September.

BlackBerry confirmed both versions of the app will support one-to-one and multi-person chat, as well as file and photo sharing, voice notes, broadcast messages and personal profiles and status updates.

And the company promised that BBM “will continue evolve quickly” with a channel chat option for sharing thoughts and ideas between people and brands, celebrities, artists, service providers and communities. And BlackBerry said that BBM Video calling and BBM Voice calling will arrive on future versions of the Android and iOS app.

Tough competition

The issue of BBM expanding beyond its traditional home on BlackBerry handsets and onto Android and Apple devices was first revealed back in May, when the company said it was bringing BBM to a “greater audience, no matter what mobile device they carry.”

Since that time, BlackBerry has reportedly considered spinning off its BlackBerry Messenger solution into a subsidiary, that would operate with greater independence from its parent company. However, there are concerns the company has left that it too late and BBM will face an uphill struggle against popular alternatives such as WhatsApp and Skype.

“Right now, it is part of a larger proposition and a differentiator for BlackBerry. But as the user numbers decrease, for lack of devices and BB10 appeal, it is clear that even opening up to iOS and Android is not going to make a difference,” Carolina Milanesi, a research vice president at Gartner, told eWEEK back in August.

From a buyer’s perspective, she added, “it would only make sense for someone that already has a critical mass of users – like Samsung. Otherwise, the fight against popular apps, like WhatsApp and even Skype, would be too tough”.

Z30 smartphone

z30Meanwhile the company has also quietly launched a new touchscreen smartphone that runs BlackBerry 10 OS version 10.2.

The new phone, dubbed the Z30, boasts a 5-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen display, an improved antenna, bigger battery, and a new Priority Hub.

According to BlackBerry, it is the “biggest, fastest and most advanced smartphone” to date.

The new BlackBerry Priority Hub is the one place where users can manage all their conversations and notifications, as it collects priority messages across the user’s email, social networking and other accounts.

Users can also preview any message as it arrives in whatever app the user is using at the time. The user can then opt to immediately dismiss it or tap it to read the full content and respond. If a BBM message arrives, the user can instantly reply to the message without even leaving the app they are in.

On the hardware side, the Z30 includes a 1.7 GHz processor with quadcore graphics capabilities. It also comes with stereo speakers and includes BlackBerry Natural Sound, which supposedly makes BBM Voice and BBM Video chats sound more natural and realistic.

The Z30 handset also includes BlackBerry’s new generation antenna technology that “dynamically tunes reception to give you better connectivity in low signal areas.” The BlackBerry Paratek Antenna is designed to provide faster data transfers and fewer dropped calls in low signal areas.

And the BlackBerry Z30 smartphone also includes a 2880 mAh battery, the largest battery ever built into a BlackBerry smartphone. This new battery, coupled with the battery enhancements in BlackBerry 10 OS version 10.2, should apparently allow for up to 25 hours of mixed use.

The Z30 will begin shipping from operators and retailers around the world from next week. There is no word on UK pricing yet.

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