BBM was once the pinnacle of messaging perfection and BlackBerry enjoyed flaunting it in front of the competition, but with the rise of rival chat apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, BlackBerry needs to stay competitive. One of the ways it plans to do that is with BBM Channels, a new social platform aimed squarely at celebrities and brands.
Hot on the heels of the announcement that BBM would eventually be available on iOS and Android, Channels promises to further build on the BlackBerry brand. The first brand to take advantage of the platform is the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, a pretty niche brand for a product launch but at least it’s not a BlackBerry fan page.
Users will be able to create a channel to gain followers, which can be controlled with a web client or BlackBerry smartphone – though the feature will be extended to iOS and Android pending acceptance into the app stores. Channel discovery will be built-in with a carousel-like UI for cycling through different brands and individuals worth checking out.
As a subscriber, you will be kept in the loop with timely updates on deals, news, events, or whatever the channel owner chooses to share. In that way, it works a bit like Facebook Pages. “Commenting” and “Liking” were also mentioned and channel owners have the option of engaging in one-to-one conversations with followers. Analytics are built-in as well, allowing you to “assess and monitor follower engagement and interaction.”
The quasi-social network approach seems like an odd move for BlackBerry, but it’s still nice to see the company trying something new. It might not overthrow the likes of Facebook and Twitter, but we could see people using it, at least the small number of BB users still out there.
BBM Channels is currently available as a beta for BlackBerry 10 smartphones like the Z10 and Q10, along with BB phones running anything from Blackberry 5 to 7.1. The application can be downloaded for free on the BlackBerry Beta Zone.