Despite making the credible, if not exciting, Z10 smartphone and the last ditch Z30, former smartphone champion BlackBerry has failed to recover its former customers. At least for phone hardware.
Software is another story. The company says its BBM app now has 20 million users on iOS and Android devices. Add that to BlackBerry’s own phone customers and there are 80 million people using the messenger software. Just to be clear, according to BlackBerry that’s 80 million active users not downloads.
BBM has been around on BlackBerry devices for around a decade. Originally it was simply an instant message service. In recent years it has expanded to include video calling. BBM fans regard it as particularly reliable.
The service became notorious when there were reports of rioters in London using BBM to co-ordinate violence.
Since BlackBerry’s heyday interest in BBM, even among BlackBerry users, has fallen. This could be set to change with the new versions allowing users of other phones to contact their BlackBerry-owing friends.
While 20 million sign-ups in two weeks is an impressive performance, BlackBerry still has a long way to go. BBM’s nearest rival in the non-BlackBerry world is Whatsapp with 300 million users. Facebook has similar functionality and Apple has its own service for iOS users.
Does BlackBerry have a hit on its hands? Not if the company doesn’t quickly build on 20 million downloads during October. But at least there’s a glimmer of hope for the ailing phone maker.