Thursday, 16 May 2013

BBM is coming to iOS and Android - and why you shouldn't give a damn

Can this turn RIM's fortunes around?



I really should begin this post by coming clean about my experience with Blackberry. I have used one before (a Bold 9700 for a year, no less) and absolutely hated my user experience with it. There, it's out. If you are a Blackberry fan-boy - or girl, you may stop reading beyond this point, because you ain't gonna like what I have to say.

For the uninitiated, Blackberry Messenger (BBM) is Blackberry's proprietary messenger program. I read with disbelief on Wikipedia that it now allows videotelephony too, but more on that later. The last I used BBM, it allowed users to link calendars with chat groups, a nifty function which the world's most popular smartphone messaging app - Whatsapp - has yet to have. BBM has an additional one-up over Whatsapp: in direct (as opposed to group) messages, BBM tells you when a message is sent from your phone, has been received by the recipient's phone, and additionally when the message has been actually opened by your recipient. Whatsapp stops at the first two features.

Now, I have friends who extoll the advantages of competing apps such as Line and Kaokaotalk. I don't use these apps, because just about everyone I know uses Whatsapp. First-mover advantage, I guess. I'm definitely not here to promote or defend Whatsapp so let's leave out the imperfections of this app.

My beef with Blackberry, in detail (on earlier models like my 9700, anyhoo)

My Blackberry running a basic GPS app, in better days.
  1. Inferior OS and hardware: The amount of RAM is pathetic, and the OS doesn't make efficient use of what little there is to run even basic apps such as Google Maps. Good luck browsing media-rich sites on the browser, that's the surest way to Crash City. Imagine having an app which mimics the effect of having your Blackberry's battery forcibly pulled out while the phone is on!! I remember having to set it to automatically 'pull' my battery daily, just to keep the phone usable - barely. Placed alongside more capable offerings from Apple and various Android handsets, the Blackberry seems like the classroom dunce. And no, upgrading my OS didn't help one bit. So when I heard of that videotelephony thingamajig, I didn't believe it. 
  2. Pathetic screen size: Adding insult to injury is the pathetic screen size as compared to the competition. Contrast and brightness are also an issue, unless you are a BB fan, in which case, why have you even read to this point?
  3. The need for a dedicated Blackberry plan: Even if you can overlook the first two issues, this can't escape notice. Blackberries require a separate data plan for full functionality. With just a typical data plan for your average iPhone or 'Droid, about the only 3G data app that will run on a BB is the browser, and we all know how well that works. Now, paying more to run a phone that does less? That doesn't seem to make any sense to me!
  4. Battery life: No worse than iPhone or my Huawei Honor. But really, I'd expect a phone with such a small screen to perform much better, and as such, BB's battery life belongs in my list of shame.

The advantages of Blackberry

For the sake of balance, I will concede that:
  1. If you really must have a physical keyboard - and choose to ignore the existence of excellent predictive on-screen keyboards such as Swype or SwiftKey - a BB is one of the few options. I was going to say "decent", but.. Nah...
  2. BBM is more secure.
  3. BBM is a decent messaging app in itself. But the world does not revolve around RIM or Blackberry users. And no, we won't bother to switch.

A dying breed

In my line, most of us started out with Blackberries because at the time, they were admittedly the best non-camera phone options available. And my workplace requires non-camera phones - don't ask.

My Huawei Honor. Nowhere near perfect, but it doesn't make me feel like destroying it with each use

Then came credible alternatives such as the Huawei Honor, iNO One, and several other models. RIM's hegemony on the non-camera phone market in Singapore came crashing down. Worldwide, the outlook for RIM is grim.

Today, all but a handful of my friends and colleagues have disavowed this abominable product, although many continue to use it amidst regular griping (or kaopeh kaobu, if you prefer).

So, why should you bother?

I once had a colleague who refused to use BBM on his Blackberry. At that time, I was using a BB and already hating it. But BBM did perform slightly better than Whatsapp on my BB. So I was quite puzzled as to why he would eschew BBM on his Bold 9000, an even older model than my 9700.

"Most of my friends use Whatsapp. I don't only message you guys (from work), you know? And I don't want to switch between apps."

He isn't alone, and Whatsapp has closed the gap in what was once a comfortable BBM stronghold - the group chat.

When even the Blackberry users are switching to more universally used messaging apps, introducing BBM to other platforms and hoping for the rest of the world to notice and make the switch is perhaps too little, way too late.

- S

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)