Research in Motion knows it needs to win back the general public’s support, and it also knows that one way to do so is by coming up with a feature that will save someone money. BlackBerry Messenger was that feature several years ago, as it made use of the BlackBerry network plan you had to pay for anyway, and provided “free” text message conversation with fellow BlackBerry owners.
Now though, a high percentage of the dedicated BlackBerry owner’s friends use iPhones and Androids, rendering BBM a relic from better days past. Now RIM has come up with BBM Voice, which it claims is “for the times when you want to hear a friend’s laughter instead of reading LOL.”
That’s right, BBM has become Skype, as it now offers the chance to call your BBM friends through version 7 of the software, using only a Wi-Fi connection. There are no geographical borders and no time limits, and as it doesn’t count towards your monthly bill, no extra charges either.
RIM makes no mention of whether BBM Voice will break free from a Wi-Fi connection and use a 3G/4G data connection in the future. It’s hardly a surprise, as networks – particularly in the U.S. – are rarely enamored by features that lose them money.
BlackBerry Messenger will show who in your contact list is available to call using BBM Voice, and a split screen display lets you send text messages or files at the same time, plus the service is compatible with Bluetooth headsets too; setting it up perfectly as a way to work collaboratively while away from the office. Those not using a BlackBerry for business will appreciate the chance to avoid massive international roaming bills too.
So, free messages and free calls, all through a single app. Sounds great, right? It is, but – and here’s the problem – to take advantage of BBM Voice, your friends and colleagues all have to have BlackBerry phones too, and as we’ve established already, they’re now using iPhones and Androids.
BBM Voice is a beta program at the moment, but you can bet it will have been perfected by the time BlackBerry 10 arrives after January 30 next year, as being able to say “free calls and messages with BlackBerry 10” should help people take notice of the new OS. All RIM needs is for those people to convince their friends/family/acquaintances/dog it’s a good idea too.