Like many, Blackberry Messenger (BBM) was the first mobile messenger I used. Back then, a small Blackberry subscription on top of your mobile phone contract (or monthly payment from your Pay As You Go balance) paid for the messenger and a push email service to your device. Initially popular with business people and celebrities, the service reached the wider public once costs came down.
The reluctance of Blackberry to make BBM cross platform once Apple and Android started eating into their market share gave services like WhatsApp the opportunity to seize the initiative and overtake the once popular messenger. Since then, WhatsApp has grown across the globe while BBM use has declined.
As part of the company’s pivot from a device manufacturer to providing service and security solutions, it licensed the consumer version of BBM to Emtek, who further alienated loyal customers in their failed attempts to turn it into a mobile social network leading to their decision to end its service for consumers at the end of next month (May 31, 2019).
So the few remaining loyal customers were not left without their messenger of choice, BlackBerry announced they had made BBM Enterprise (BBMe), its enterprise-grade end-to-end encrypted messaging platform, available for consumer and individual use, for a small fee after an initial free 12 month trial period.
But this decision could prove to be a masterstroke. I have lost count of the number of times I have been told that Android users would be prepared to pay a small monthly fee to have access to Apple’s iMessage service on their device, especially since Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp.
The attraction of iMessage is its clean interface, ability to access messages on multiple devices and the lack of any adverts or data mining of customers.
But BBMe is offering exactly this and through an individual subscription, users can send secure, encrypted messages with other BBM Enterprise customers. It could also help add more enterprise customers once they have experienced the service for themselves through using BBMe.
If customers want to continue with the service after the free trial period, the company will charge £2.39 every six months. The works out at just under 40p/month, which in my opinion is a very small price to pay for a solid and secure service with a clean and easy to use interface.
From a feature perspective, BBMe users can conduct group chats, voice and video calls, as well as edit, retract, or set an expiration time on a single message. They’ll also know when a message is received and read, and have the ability to share files, voice notes, and their location. BBMe for individual use can be used on up to five devices simultaneously.
Users can pin important chats to the top of their conversation list to make them easier to find, and mentioning a participant in a group chat changes it to a yellow message bubble making it easy for the user mentioned to find.
BBMe can be downloaded on any device that uses Android, iOS, Windows or MAC operating systems and on 5 devices simultaneously. The sender and recipient each have unique public/private encryption and signing keys. These keys are generated on the device by a FIPS 140-2 certified cryptographic library and are not controlled by BlackBerry.
Each message uses a new symmetric key for message encryption. Additionally, TLS encryption between the device and BlackBerry’s infrastructure protects BBMe messages from eavesdropping or manipulation.
My early impressions are that there a lot of former BBM users who are coming back to the messenger to see how the enterprise version compares to their beloved original. Feedback I have seen is very positive and I’ve found myself a member of a number of very friendly and welcoming groups and have a larger contacts list of users than anytime over the last 5+ years.
For easy reference, the features which make this a messenger service worth paying for in my opinion include:
- Delivery and Read receipts. In a group a white ‘D’ shows the message has been delivered for some participants and it turns blue once delivered to all. A white ‘R’ shows the message has been read by some members of the group and once it turns green, it has been read by all. In the chats tab, you can see the status of your message without having to open up the discussion.
- You can retract, edit, forward, and quote messages.
- Chats can be muted or hidden.
- Timed messages can be sent which automatically delete once the time limit is reached.
- Taking screenshots of chats is blocked.
- Contacts are added via a PIN meaning no personal information needs to be disclosed to other users.
- Chats can be pinned to the top of the message list.
- Participants in a group chat can be @mentioned and these will show up as yellow on the recipients device making them stand out.
- Contact cards can be sent to other BBMe users.
- The app’s interface is clean and simple with contacts, groups, chat and activity buttons.
- BBMe is reliable and uses secure and advanced encryption which does not require a phone number to register. Nor does it upload your address book to suggest other users to connect with.
- Customizable pings (message alerts) can be sent to individual and group discussions.
- There are no adverts and data from users is not collected to be sent on or used for targeting adverts.
- BBMe can be used on 5 devices simultaneously.
- Options to share are easy to use and functional.
- The dropdown quick message preview allows you to reply outside of the app.
- The app also allows users to call each other using high quality voice and video.
- Only participants that are administrators of a group chat can edit the subject.
Going forward, personally I would like Blackberry to add sticker packs and different subscription options allowing a mini licence for a family or group to use together which would help build its user base.
So would you give BBMe a try or are you happy paying for a ‘free’ service with your data?
If you want to contact me via BBMe, my PIN is EF007ED4.