BlackBerry Adds BBM Features For Android, iOS

BlackBerry makes significant improvements to its instant messaging client, brings it closer to the native BlackBerry version.
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New versions of BlackBerry's BBM application hit the Google Play Store and Apple iTunes App Store this week. They bring welcome changes for Android and iOS devices, including new support for the iPad tablet.

Both apps get new sharing powers that should making finding and connecting with people easier. For starters, there are new options for sharing BBM PIN barcodes across different social networks. Using barcodes lets another device scan the code to automatically generate and input the PIN code to their own BBM apps. This eliminates the need to enter the PIN code manually.

In addition to the new Share PIN option, BBM for Android and iOS makes it easier to find which social networking friends and contacts are also using BBM. The Tell Your Friends feature works via the browser, which requires users to navigate to the social network in question and login. Users can then browse their friends lists to see if there are BBM PIN codes listed in their friends' contact profiles.

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Improvements specific to the Android version of BBM revolve around the behavior of contacts and groups. Android device owners can now assign BBM contacts to categories, for example. This can help keep BBM contacts organized. Further, the BBM Group List has been improved with new sorting and filtering tools to make it easier to find specific groups and contacts. The Android BBM app also makes improvements to power usage and reduces battery drain.

Changes specific to the iOS version of BBM center on device support. BBM is now compatible with WiFi-only iPad tablets and iPod Touch media players that are running either iOS 6 or iOS 7. iPad and iPod Touch owners gain access to BBM and all the same features that are available to the iPhone version of the app. The messaging app also improves the performance of right-to-left language support and resolves an issue that hid BBM contact names from view.

BBM launched late last month and saw solid uptake from Android and iOS device users. It scored more than 20 million downloads in the first two weeks. BBM has long been a core feature of BlackBerry devices. It allows users to message one another instantly while providing tools such as delivery confirmation and read receipts. The latest version for BlackBerry devices also includes voice calls, video chats, and screen sharing. Not all these features are available to Android and iOS devices, but will be soon.

BBM is competing with native IM tools, however. Google device users can IM one another with Hangouts, and Apple device users can IM one another through iMessage. There are also dozens of third-party IM apps from the likes of Skype, Viber, and many others.

BBM for Android devices can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, and from the Apple iTunes App Store.

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