Durban - It’s official. BBM, the messaging service that is so popular among young people in Mzansi, is coming to Android. And the first non-BlackBerry devices to get it will be Samsung’s Galaxy range of smartphones.
Rumours have been doing the rounds for more than a year that the troubled Canadian phone maker has been planning to make BBM available on its competitors’ handsets. But the first solid confirmation came only in the past week, with an announcement from George Ferreira, the vice-president and chief operating officer of Samsung Electronics Africa that the Korean electronics behemoth had entered a partnership with BlackBerry.
“Bringing a top-tier messaging service such as BBM (to our devices) is another way that we are expanding the catalogue of our messaging services and offering customers an amazing way to stay instantly connected with colleagues, friends and family,” Ferreira said.
BBM will be integrated into the Samsung Messaging Hub as a free addition to the slate of propriety and third party messaging services that Samsung customers enjoy.
Interestingly, BBM for Android will initially only be available on Galaxy-branded smartphones and only in Africa, giving Samsung customers on the continent access to the BBM social network, including BBM chats, multiperson chats and BBM Groups, which allows BBM customers to create groups of up to 30 people, as well as share photos and voice notes.
At launch, the app will be available for download from the Samsung and Google Play Stores, at no cost. There is still no word from either Samsung or BlackBerry on when that will happen, but I'm pretty sure it will be earlier than the originally rumoured date of October. And I doubt it will be very long before BBM is on other Android devices worldwide.
As a Samsung smartphone owner and father of two BlackBerry-toting teens, I’m naturally thrilled at the development. But I’m not so sure it is the best move for BlackBerry, given that BBM was really the only reason my kids wanted “CrackBerries” in the first place.
My son, in particular, was quite torn when it came to choosing his first cellphone late last year. The BlackBerry, he complained, was “lame” compared to a similarly priced Android phone. But he went for it anyway because all his friends had them. And his friends had them because of one thing – you’ve guessed it: BBM.
I doubt either of my kids were planning to choose a BlackBerry as their next phone anyway. But with BBM no longer exclusive to BlackBerry, the chances now are pretty much non-existent.
Yes, BlackBerry has released some superb new handsets in the past year or so, but they are top-end devices with price tags in the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S4 league. In the price bracket my kids will be shopping in, Android phones – and Samsung devices in particular – are growing more dominant by the day.
Now, with BBM as yet another selling point, they will be well nigh unbeatable. - Sunday Tribune
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