BlackBerry’s just not a company that can count on selling a ton of smartphones anymore, and staying relevant has meant making efforts to draw in users with its services. Back in the fall of 2013, well before we saw the manufacturer expand its smartphone line to Android, BlackBerry was already experimenting with just that kind of cross-platform draw, inviting Android and iOS users to come on board with the heretofore BlackBerry-exclusive BBM messaging platform. While everyone was free to pick up BBM and start messaging, BlackBerry reserved certain advanced features for those users paying a monthly fee. Now the company’s decided to give up that revenue stream (while making BBM more attractive in the process), announcing that all users will now have free access to those previously-subscription-only features.
The big ones here are Retract and Timer, giving senders new control over how other users can see their messages. Retract allows senders to revoke messages after being sent, remotely deleting them from recipient devices (as well as their own). Timer is a bit of a Snapchat-like ephemeral control, letting senders specify just how long content can be viewed before it’s no longer accessible.
Beyond that, there’s also support for message forwarding, editing, and a private chat mode. We also see updates for the Android, iOS, and BB10 BBM apps, generally updating app UIs, allowing users to save shared images, and enhancing BBM Voice call quality – along with a few platform-specific improvements.
Will these new features help convince users to stay with BBM, or give it a try if they haven’t before? Even this does help improve the user-numbers situation, how much more work does BlackBerry need to do in order to get its revenue up where it needs to be? BlackBerry’s got a lot of work to do yet, but this could be one step in the right direction.