RIM recently launched the BBM Voice service in the latest version of BBM, version 7. The service works in a pretty behind-the-scenes manner, adding a Voice Dial icon to any BBM profile that has the latest version and can utilize BBM Voice. The service runs off the WiFi network and allows you to potentially save a great deal of money by not using up voice minutes and piggybacking on a simple BBM data plan. I’ve spent a few days using the service, and I thought I’d put together some initial impressions on the service.
Huge for Third World
BBM Voice is going to be amazing for those with a prepaid BlackBerry and a BBM Plan. This way, you can save all your voice minutes for emergencies and leverage WiFi to make calls. This is also going to be great for those who make long distance calls often. If you have family abroad with BBM, you can now call them for free.
Smart WiFi-Style Apps
Apps such as Little Brother and Smart WiFi are going to be very complementary to BBM Voice. One of the problems with BBM Voice is that it requires a WiFi connection, but leaving your WiFi on outside of the network can cause battery drain. Applications such as Little Brother by Emacberry, allows you to geofence your WiFi zones, thus saving battery and automatically kicking you onto a WiFi Network.
Voice is Dead
Voice is a boring, outdated way of communicating that, while still popular for certain cases such as conference calls, sales and support, it’s going to be a small percentage of overall communication relative to technologies such as video chat, instant messaging and social networks. BBM Voice is an excellent product but one can’t help but think that it would have been a much better product to launch 2-3 years ago, and that it’s not necessarily the best time to launch a voice product. It’s an especially bad time as RIM is currently facing criticism for not being innovative.
As it stands, I find myself only using BBM Voice as a novelty feature. Many of my BlackBerry Messenger contacts have moved on to other smartphones, making my BBM Contact list pretty sparse. That, combined with both parties having to be on WiFi, means there are few situations where BBM Voice can be activated. It reminds me of the PlayBook video chat in that respect. It’s hard to find a convenient time when the right contact is available on WiFi and you’re both looking to talk to one another. This product seems best for those on prepaid BlackBerrys with a BBM Plan who are looking to save minutes, and therefore I’m just not the target market for the product.