BlackBerry has a lot riding on the success of their cross-platform messaging service BBM, since the hardware side of the company is failing to grab any attention and they have announced their first big update coming to iOS and Android in 2014.
BBM Voice is the top of the new feature list, a free way to call anyone who has BBM installed, this will also allow video calls through the application, putting BBM against Hangouts and FaceTime in the video calling space.
Channels are the next feature in the big update, allowing users to join chat rooms based on interests, hobbies and other relevant topics – this is also a way for BlackBerry to grab consumer brands, adding chat rooms specifically for promoted channels.
BBM will also add faster and easier photo sharing, coinciding with the launch of Instagram Direct. We are not sure if BlackBerry will be announcing any new group photo messaging features, we doubt they will unless they see Instagram Direct as a strong competitor.
The big update will be coming to iOS and Android, the two major platforms BBM is available on. We still have no news on when BBM will come to Windows Phone or any other mobile OS, we expect BlackBerry is trying to hold off the launch for as long as possible.
Early reports are great for BBM, apparently BlackBerry has grabbed over 40 million downloads across iOS and Android. If the app continues to grow at this rate it will surpass Instagram in users before mid-2014 and will become a valiant competitor against WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
BlackBerry has not said where they will take BBM, some early reports said BlackBerry wants to split the app from the company and then look for buyers, but this idea may have been crushed with the big change in management.