UPDATED: BlackBerry Messenger apps coming to iOS, Android this summer
BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) is poised to port its signature BlackBerry Messenger chat service to Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, enabling BBM users to interact across multiple mobile operating systems.
This summer, BlackBerry will introduce native BBM apps for iOS and Android, promising core features like one-on-one and multi-person text chats, voice and video chats, voice note sharing and BlackBerry Groups, which enables as many as 30 BBM users to share calendars, photos, files and additional content. The iOS and Android apps also will support BBM Channels, a new social engagement platform within Messenger allowing customers to connect with businesses, brands, celebrities and groups.
"If approved by Apple and Google, the BBM app will be available as a free download in the Apple App Store and Google Play store," said BlackBerry Blog Manager Donny Halliwell. "Additional details about system requirements and availability will be announced closer to the launch."
Roughly three out of every four BlackBerry device owners use BlackBerry Messenger, corresponding to roughly 60 million active users worldwide and more than 10 billion messages per day. BlackBerry has also taken steps to expand BBM's feature set in an effort to fend off competition from multi-platform OTT messaging apps like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber: The device maker recently began testing a new mobile money transfer application integrated directly into the Messenger service.
In related news, BlackBerry unveiled the first point-release update of its fledgling BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system, promising users a series of improvements and new features. BlackBerry 10.1, scheduled to roll out to BlackBerry Z10 smartphones across all carrier partners over the coming weeks, touts a revamped BlackBerry Hub, which offers a single point of access for all personal and professional conversations including BlackBerry Messenger chat, email and social media updates. Improvements include support for PIN-to-PIN messages for direct communication between BlackBerry smartphones as well as expanded attachment support, making it easier to view emails attached to other messages.
BlackBerry 10.1 also expands Time Shift, a new BB10 feature letting users move parts of photos backwards and forwards in time to create the perfect shot. BB10.1 adds a High Dynamic Range shooting mode for capturing images in difficult lighting conditions, snapping multiple photos at different exposure levels and automatically layering them to generate a single image combining dark and light areas.
Also new in BlackBerry 10.1: Personalized notifications for accounts and contacts, fine cursor control for more accurate typing and landscape calendar support.
"To update your BlackBerry Z10 smartphone to BlackBerry 10.1 look for the alert in the notifications section of the BlackBerry Hub," BlackBerry said. "You can also check for software updates through the settings menu by visiting the software updates section. The download will happen in the background, and the update will be applied without needing to back up your smartphone. All of your information remains safe."
BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion) unveiled BlackBerry 10 in late January. The flagship Z10 did not go on sale in the U.S. until two months later. BlackBerry is looking to BB10 to resuscitate user interest in its platform: Research firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech reports that BlackBerry devices accounted for just 0.9 percent of all smartphones sold in the U.S. during the first quarter of 2013, far off the pace established by Android and iPhone.
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Updated May 14 to include news of BlackBerry Messenger's multi-platform expansion.