RIM expands BlackBerry Messenger with new voice chat features

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Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) is rolling out an overhauled version of its BlackBerry Messenger mobile social networking service with voice chat capabilities.

With the new BBM Voice, BlackBerry device users can make free voice calls to other BBM customers across the globe over a Wi-Fi connection. A split-screen feature enables users to toggle between messaging and voice options, or talk and text at the same time, enhancing business collaboration possibilities. In addition, consumers engaged in BBM Voice calls can check other BBM text chats, view email or navigate to other BlackBerry apps. 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.

The revamped BBM version 7 also boasts deep integration with the consumer's BlackBerry ID, which enables simplified access to BlackBerry applications, services and products. BlackBerry ID now backs up the user's BBM profile, groups and contacts in the event he upgrades or loses his device.

BBM version 7 is available for download from the BlackBerry Beta Zone and currently supports devices running BlackBerry 6 and higher. RIM said it will expand support to BlackBerry 5 at a later date.

Research In Motion will unveil its long-awaited BlackBerry 10 mobile operating system on Jan. 30. Features include the new BlackBerry Flow user interface highlighted by BlackBerry Hub, which enables simplified access to all messages, notifications, feeds and calendar events. BlackBerry 10 also boasts BlackBerry Balance, which separates personal applications and information from encrypted work profiles, enabling organizations to protect their data while giving users the flexibility to optimize their devices for personal use.

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