Why BBM for Android, iOS Success will be Short-Lived

CIO.com's Al Sacco likes the new BBM for Android and iOS apps but says they're not compelling enough to make the average iOS or Android user switch from their messaging apps of choice. Here's why.

Tue, October 29, 2013

CIO — Just over a week ago, BlackBerry finally started rolling out its BBM messaging app to iOS and Android users. The initial launch of the app was planned a few weeks earlier but was foiled by the unofficial distribution of a faulty beta software build for iOS, which gunked up the BBM works, at least according to BlackBerry.

 BlackBerry BBM Android

This time around, BlackBerry wisely instituted a waiting-list system to limit the number of users who could employ the app until the company was sure it could handle the influx of new messaging activity. The system wasn't well received by the people forced to wait in BlackBerry's digital line, but it seems to have worked well. Now anyone can download and immediately start using the cross platform BBM service.

Today, BlackBerry announced that in just a week it had added 20 million new BBM users, which brought the total number of active BBM users to around 80 million. Those are some big numbers, and the BBM launch was an undisputed success - a success that BlackBerry needed.

But what do those numbers really mean? And are they just a flash in the pan?

First of all, I like the app and service. I'd been using BBM regularly on a BlackBerry for a long time, when, about two years ago, I started looking for an alternative that let me communicate with my friends and relatives on other platforms. I quickly found Kik Messenger and WhatsApp, and I started experimenting with each of them. Over time, I gravitated toward Kik, because, for whatever reason, that's the app that more of my connections chose to use.

Ultimately, that's the true value of messaging apps like BBM, Kik and WhatsApp: The ability to quickly connect and have meaningful interactions with the important people in your life. In order for this to work, the important people in your life need to download - and actually use - the same messaging apps as you.

That's BBM's major challenge: Moving users from other messaging apps and then motivating them to convince their messaging contacts to not only switch to BBM but continue using it. The way to do that is by offering unique and valuable features that other messaging apps don't have.

Unfortunately, it's difficult to come up with compelling features that are unique to BBM, which is the main reason why I'm not yet sold on cross platform BBM.

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