First Impressions of the Official BBM for Android App

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EDITOR NOTE: The following is sent in by a friend of mine that has early access to devices and apps as he works as an IT admin and runs the company’s smartphone and tablet deployments. I’m reposting this under my name because he’s obviously under NDA.

I was one of the lucky people to be on the beta test for BBM on Android. I have gone on and off my Galaxy S3 for the past 2 months testing every new feature they were adding with every release. The app has matured like you wouldn’t believe in such a small amount of time.

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At first BBM for Android didn’t feel right especially since it wasn’t being used in the BlackBerry environment, and I felt like I was cheating when I had such a perfect relationship going. For the version of the app I was using, messages sometimes took a while to go through, and at times the app would not respond. Given these problems, I would generally use BBM for Android for an hour and go back to my Z10.

Time went by and the more updates that came out, the smoother the experience became. The app itself had to be polished but there was a lot of backend modifications going on. BlackBerry is letting “strange” Operating Systems use their secure network, and there is likely a lot of backend work that had to be done. Every week there was one or two scheduled maintenances, as well as a new version with new features. While using BBM for Android, I would often give my 2 cents, sending emails as well as filling out forms and questionnaires. BlackBerry was clearly listening as features, typos, and performance bugs were addressed with every new release.

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With BBM for Android, you get a unique pin when creating your BlackBerry ID. Mine was different than the one on my Z10 since this one is hardware linked. I did notice that the pin changed everytime time I logged in with a new version. The pin changing isn’t a big deal and it’s more important to keep the Blackberry ID constant. It’s clear that the email you choose to register is the important information that always stays the same.

Your unique pin is shown after logging in, and is then used to create the barcode to be scanned by others. You can invite your friends through the usual social networks, email, SMS and more, after creating your account. Anyone familiar with BBM on BlackBerry 10 will recognize the contacts page and how it’s organized. Having already a BBM account on my BlackBerry, this page is automatically populated with all my contacts, but, at the time of this writing, the categories that I had created in BBM on the BlackBerry were not there on Android. When starting fresh, losing some of your categories is something that you can get used to, but my hundreds of contacts were scattered in alphabetical order instead of my usual groups. This is something that will have to definitely get resolved in the future, but not a big issue that prevents us from using the app.

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Three dots has become the BlackBerry 10 “More Options” icon and tapping this icon on the bottom right will get you access to Help, Settings and Invite to BBM. Depending on where you are in the app you can send Broadcast Messages, start Multi-Chats, Ping another user or copy your chat to save elsewhere. Again, things might have changed in the final release. A cool little feature within the app is it gives you the possibility to change the LED color so you can customize and know when a message is received from BBM and not another app.

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Adding a new contact can be done in many ways: Scan Barcode, invite by PIN, email, SMS and even NFC if your device supports it.

For now, adding media is limited to pictures and voice notes. Swiping from the left to right will bring another menu that gives you the same items that are located on the bottom shortcut bar, but with the addition to view invites sent to you.

The whole look and feel of the app is on par with what you would expect on a BlackBerry, except of course the keyboard. All in all it’s fast and responsive. It also comes with the usual visual queues when sending, delivering, and reading a message and bring a sense of assurance that everything is going through. I know that old BlackBerry users that have missed BBM are going to jump right back in, possibly find some old friends, and feel right at home. We just need to sit back and see how it will stack up to the competitors.

Don’t forget, 60 million BBM users can’t be wrong! Let’s see how many they will have after we give it a bit of time.