BlackBerry Messenger update extends voice support to BB OS 5 devices

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BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) is rolling out an updated version of its signature Messenger application, extending voice-calling capabilities to legacy devices running BlackBerry OS 5.

With the new BlackBerry Messenger 7.0.1, BlackBerry 5 owners may now access BBM Voice, first introduced late last year for devices running BB OS 6 or higher. BBM Voice enables consumers to make free calls to other BBM users across the globe over a Wi-Fi connection; a split-screen feature allows toggling between messaging and voice options, and users may also talk and text at the same time, enhancing business collaboration possibilities. The BBM platform identifies which contacts are available for voice conversations, and in the event the call recipient is not free to chat, they can respond to the caller via text.

BlackBerry Messenger 7.0.1 also touts deep integration with the consumer's BlackBerry ID, which enables simplified access to BlackBerry applications, services and products. BlackBerry ID also backs up the user's BBM profile, groups and contacts in the event a device is upgraded or lost.

Roughly three out of every four BlackBerry device owners use BlackBerry Messenger, corresponding to roughly 60 million active users worldwide. BlackBerry (formerly Research In Motion) continues to expand BBM's feature set in an effort to fend off competition from multi-platform OTT messaging apps like Skype and Viber: Late last month, the device maker began testing a new mobile money transfer application integrated directly into the Messenger service.

"BBM was traditionally thought of as just a chat client," BlackBerry Vice President of BBM and Social Communities T.A. McCann told Bloomberg following BBM Money's introduction. "We're really trying to work hard to show clear examples of how we're expanding BBM well beyond just chat."

For more:
- read this Official BlackBerry Blog entry

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