Hands-on: BBM for iPhone review

BBM for iPhone and Android is now out and we've already managed to have a play with both apps after persuading BlackBerry to push us to the front of the queue to get access.

The new iPhone app, available for download from today after a somewhat awkward initial launch, is now ready for Android and iPhone users to talk with their buddies still using a BlackBerry.

With the Instant Messenger market heating up and popular apps like WhatsApp dominating the space there is plenty of competition for BlackBerry to challenge. Talk to a BlackBerry user and they say they can't get enough of the BBM service, but is it the same for iPhone or Android users?

We'll be playing with both apps over the next couple of days, but wanted to share with you an initial reaction so you can see what the app looks like and what it does, here we've concentrated on the iPhone version of the app, although the experience is very similar. 

Is that a tumbleweed

It's quiet, that's for sure, but that's because the last time we BBM'd someone was 2008 or even earlier, and we've lost touch with most of our BBM contacts over the years. That said, the first thing we've done is email them asking to reconnect.

BB10 design in an iPhone framework

Yep, it's a bit of a strange one, but BlackBerry has designed the BBM for iPhone to look somewhat like BlackBerry 10, but within the guidelines of iOS. It's a tad jarring at first with BB10 gestures like swipe left and swipe right to get menu systems giving you a feeling that you've probably not experienced before, but with an iPhone iOS 7 keyboard.

The app itself is easy to use and broken down into a number of key areas: Chats, Contacts, and Groups. In the main area of the app you can see your chats with different people, and the only contacts that are listed are the ones you've got as BBM contacts obviously. It's very white to begin with. 

Setup

You can only set-up one device at any time with BBM. Our details were still associated to our BB Z10 review device we use occasionally for testing new apps and features in the office. Not any more though, we've had to associate the account with the iPhone app. That's standard fare and how WhatsApp works associating itself with one phone number for security rather than Apple's iMessages approach of associating your account with your email. It means that you can't run BBM on your phone and your iPad however.

Talking to people

You can attach stuff, ping then or talk with emoji. You can't, it seems have a BBM voice or BBM video call. You are able to send a voice note though.

You can also talk to people cross platform. That's the point of course. So far we've talked to someone on a Z30 and a HTC One. Exciting. 

As with BBM on BlackBerry you get icons to see that the person you are sending messages to has read the message and you can have it so the app not only records your chat history, but more importantly for international travellers that your country and time are shown so people know when you are sleeping or just ignoring them.

Allowing push notifications means when someone does ping you a message you are told regardless of what app you are in. Sadly the number of unread messages is marked with a number not a red asterisk

First impressions

The design is a little jarring, but the app does what it says on the tin and does it effectively. It's very fast, but then BBM always has been. If you want to reconnect with those old BlackBerry pals of yours, but didn't want to actually get a BlackBerry smartphone this is certainly the way to do it.

We suspect that it will be hugely successful with a certain age group, but aside from seemingly giving you access to more people to talk to, this doesn't seem to deliver anything above and beyond what is already available on the market.

Still we look forward to catching up with our BBM friends again. How the devil are you old bean?



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