For better or worse, after a false start in September, BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) has finally touched down for iOS and Android, and it’s reportedly doing rather well, notching up 10 million downloads in just 24 hours.
But it remains to be seen how many people will continue to use BBM after the initial period of curiosity (it’s free to download, of course), and considering the various hurdles in place, I expect it’ll drop quite dramatically.
For starters, simply downloading the app doesn’t mean you’re ready to begin using BBM. Far from it. You’ll currently face a wait time of around 24 hours, a process that convinced an already-skeptical mate to delete the app before gaining access.
Incidentally, in some cases, it’s possible to bypass the BBM waiting list by force closing the app. On iOS, double tap Home and swipe up; on Android, go to Settings > Apps, and close BBM.
Verification received (“BBM: You’re at the front of the line!”), the next step is filling in a form including username, password, Security Question and Answer, and date of birth. Seriously. This isn’t online banking, man.
Scrolling through the various fields, my other half sighed and stressed: “I’m only doing this for you, you realise.”
So already I’m wondering how many people have been turned off by the verification and sign-up process.
The third problem is a beauty, and it’s not something iOS and Android users are necessarily used to seeing in the world of IM. See, regardless of how many friends have downloaded – and been verified for and signed up to – BBM, you’ll have zero contacts at first.
With Viber, for example, you download the app, and it immediately explains: “Your phone number is your ID. Your contacts are already here.” A quick verification text later, and you’re good to go. Simple.
See, with your permission, Viber accesses your contact list and automatically highlights those with the app installed. It really couldn’t be easier.
Meanwhile, BBM insists on sticking with the antiquated PIN technique, which – personally – I find a total pain in the bum-bum.
In order to build a reasonable list of contacts and make BBM a worthwhile endeavour I have to contact each of my friends individually and provide my PIN. Unless I send a mass email/text, but you get the idea. It’s not exactly user-friendly.
“Why should I use BBM instead of iMessage or Whatsapp?” is the obvious question on everyone’s lips, and considering those three hurdles (waiting, signing up, manually building a contact list), I struggle to believe that these initial download figures will translate into long-term users.
To be fair, there is another school of thought (predictably favoured by the BlackBerry diehards) that suggests you mightn’t necessarily want everyone who has your mobile number to be able to contact you on BBM – and vice versa. Some people like the additional level of control.
But it’d be nice to have the option to have my BBM account linked with my mobile number, the option to make myself public to those on my contact list.
The way things stand, it’s somewhat ironically necessary to contact your friends via some BBM rival such as iMessage or Whatsapp to exchange PINs, which renders the whole thing farcical.
Or maybe I’m out of line. Let us know what you think below. Would you be happy to have BBM access your contact list, or do you like the extra control afforded by the PIN system?