BBM takes on WhatsApp: Should you switch?

After months of waiting, BBM finally arrived on iPhone and Android last week but with so many other great instant messaging services, is it a little late joining the game?

We have been swapping between BBM and WhatsApp to see which we prefer and whether it's worth giving up the double ticks for the single tick and letter.

BBM is more private

The fact that you have to use a unique PIN to build up your contact database on BBM is both a good and a bad thing. In terms of privacy, it is great as you won't be able to contact anyone on BBM without each person accepting the other.

On the other hand, it is much more hassle than WhatsApp where you can contact anyone in your phonebook through WhatsApp and it is as easy as sending a message.

Once you have built up your BBM contacts though, it is just as simple to use as WhatsApp so if you want to control who can contact you, we suggest you opt for BBM.

Contact grid is better on BBM

Perhaps it's the privacy factor that makes the BBM contact grid preferable to the WhatsApp list, which is taken directly from your main contacts database.

We found the BBM grid to be more appealing and liked the way the pictures are clear and the main focus, as opposed to the name. This is just our personal preference though and WhatsApp does have a favourites section which also features a grid layout and prominent picture for a similar experience.

We did find the double opt-in feature on BBM means only your close friends or family and people you speak to on a regular basis were in your BBM contacts, which made people easier to find, but adding these people to your favourites section on WhatsApp would enable you to do that too.

If you do happen to be more of a list fan, the contact section on BBM can be changed to list over grid in settings.

Both let you create a status

Many of the features of WhatsApp and BBM are quite similar, one of which is the creating a status and updating everyone on your current mood.

We can't say we use this option on a regular basis on either, but if you are feeling particularly grumpy one day, it is a good feature to help warn your contacts.

Both let you create groups, but more attachment options with WhatsApp

BBM and WhatsApp will both allow you to create a group and start a chat with however many people you want in the chat.

But where WhatsApp really shines is in its attachment options, allowing you to send images, videos, audio files and locations compared to audio and images on BBM.

Double tick or single tick and "R"

The two apps really come into their own when with the delivery of messages and the feedback each one gives.

WhatsApp will tell you when someone is online, as well as when they were last seen, whereas BBM won't give you any of this information and will only let you know if they are available, busy or whatever custom status they have set.

We like the online and last seen features of WhatsApp, and have always found them to be mostly accurate in the past.

But we prefer the feedback given from BBM once you have sent a message with BBM giving you a "D" for delivery and "R" for read, compared to WhatsApp which just gives you two ticks, one to say the message is sent, the other to say it has been delivered.

You will know if someone has read your message on WhatsApp based on when they were last online but there is a lot more maths involved than just having a simple letter to let you know when someone is choosing to ignore you.

One feature BBM has in its favour here is the "PING" option, allowing you to essentially nudge someone who hasn't responded compared to WhatsApp where you would just have to send another message.

Better emoticons on WhatsApp

This is probably more down to personal emoticon preference than anything else, but we have to say we prefer the options you get on WhatsApp compared to BBM.

There are a few more smiley and not so smiley expressions on WhatsApp, as well as a range of animals and images. You can pretty much tell an entire story based on emoticons in WhatsApp, which would be possible on BBM too but a little more difficult as there aren't as many to choose from.

Notifications

Both apps have notifications so you shouldn't miss messages from either but there was one thing we noticed about BBM and that was the BBM icon was always on display on the top left-hand corner of our Android handset.

We found this a little annoying as we like a clear notifications bar, but after playing with the settings, we managed to turn this off, although there is a warning that messages might not be delivered when your battery power is low, should you turn the connected icon off.

More chat space on WhatsApp 

The final thing we noticed when using both apps was the chat space seemed smaller on BBM as the conversation bubbles are bigger.

We looked for a way to change the text size, which you are able to do on the Blackberry version, to fit in more of the conversation when the keyboard is up, but we were out of luck on this occasion.

We did find that you can switch off "Show Action Bar With Keyboard" which gives you a little more room to work, but we preferred how much more you were able to see on WhatsApp.

What you don't get from BBM on BlackBerry

It's worth mentioning that you don't get all the features in BBM that BlackBerry owners will enjoy from day one. There's no BBM video, screen share or voice and you don't get apps hooked into BBM as you do on BlackBerry. Currently, BBM is very much a messaging platform aligned with WhatsApp, rather than being a much bigger central service.

However, the Canadian company has confirmed that the aim is to have the BBM experience the same across platforms and when that happens, BBM will leapfrog WhatsApp when it comes to features.

BBM will let you communicate with BlackBerry users on the platform, but similarly, there's a WhatsApp app for BlackBerry, so there's never been a huge barrier when it comes to messaging across devices.

Conclusion

We really like both these apps and each has its own positive and negatives attributes. It is a lot easier to use WhatsApp from the off as you have all your contacts there without you having to accept each other, but we are huge fans of the delivered and read feedback indicators on BBM.

The online and last seen features of WhatsApp are great and give you more live feedback compared to BBM, plus we like that you are able to send video and other attachments, but the BBM interface is really nice and you get a little more privacy with who you want to accept.

It's a tough choice, there's no doubt about that. If you send a lot of videos or like the live interaction, then you are better to stick with the double tick option WhatsApp. But if you fancy a change and want to be a bit more selective about who you speak to, as well as receive more hard evidence on when your messages have been delivered and read, it might be time to switch to the single tick and letter BBM option.

BBM is available now on Google Play and iTunes. WhatsApp is also available on Google Play and iTunes. Both services are free.



>