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Blackberry BBM Update Adds VOIP Functionality, but It Won't Be Enough

  By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

A new beta release of Blackberry’s BBM messaging app introduces VoIP calling. Will this matter for the voice-over-LTE (News - Alert) (VoLTE) market? Not really.

When Blackberry users of a certain age are asked why they use (and like) Blackberry, the answer usually comes down to Blackberry messaging functionality.

It isn’t so much that there is anything truly unique about BBM, but rather Blackberry was an early mover in the smartphone space, and it developed a loyal following of people who found the service easy to use. Even more crucial, they found their friends on the service, creating a tipping point that has kept BBM relevant far beyond what Android (News - Alert) and iPhone users might expect.

If friends are using a particular platform for digital communication, you pretty much need to follow suit if you want to participate fully in the group.

Hence, BBM has endured, even while Blackberry itself has been on a long decline in users, outside of a few countries such as Indonesia where it is still cool.

Image via Shutterstock

Trying to hold on to that relevancy, Blackberry eventually made its network available in the form of an app for iOs and Android.

It could be argued, of course, that this has allowed for a further erosion of the platform, but at the least it has kept BBM going.

To further stem an erosion of its user base, the new beta of Blackberry BBM for Android,, now comes with both voice chat and support for channels allowing users to have group discussions in a bulletin board format.

The voice functionality in BBM for Android is similar to what Apple’s Facetime and Microsoft’s (News - Alert) Skype bring to the table for mobile users—free calling over LTE or even 3G cellular. Like the two services, users can only call others who are using the service—although Skype (News - Alert) can be upgraded to allow for termination to any regular telephone number.

Will this functionality have any impact on VoLTE providers? The short answer is no, it will not.

Although a pioneer in the smartphone market, Blackberry is late to the game yet again. It doesn’t offer much aside from a legacy user base that differentiates itself, except perhaps the promised support of being able to share Android app files with other users (no other service provides such functionality).

So, the move will extend the life of Blackberry’s BBM a little longer, but it won’t slow big players in the VoLTE market. If anything, it will help them, since it is yet another service that gets users accustomed to VoLTE technology.

Unfortunately for Blackberry, however, it is probably not enough to help the company reassert its previous dominance.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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