BlackBerry has announced BBM 2.0, a dramatically improved version of the chat applicaion for Android and iPhone that adds a number of new features to the platform.
Most notably, Android and iPhone users can now complete voice calls over Wi-Fi or a data connection through BBM Voice. BlackBerry is marketing the feature as useful because you won't be charged for international calls as you would with your carrier phone number.
When a BBM contact is available for a BBM Voice call you’ll see a green icon in the top right-hand corner of your chat. To call them, simply touch the green icon and your call will be connected, BlackBerry explains.
Also added is the BBM Channels feature, a group chat functionality that will allow BBM users to chat about topics that interest them.
Channels are aimed to be centred around certain topics, such as products, hobbies, entertainment and fashion, to let users communicate and collaborate with each other. BlackBerry is also hoping brands will use the Channels functionality to communicate with customers.
Lastly, BlackBerry has added location sharing powered by Glympse. You can choose how long you want to share your location with another user by setting a timer, and when the timer runs out your location is private again. Better media integration, new emoticons and Dropbox support have also been added.
BlackBerry has continued to beef up its BBM product as it works to regain relevance in the smartphone market. It added 20 million new users to the service in the first few weeks of its launch on iPhone and Android. At the end of last year, BlackBerry announced that there are now 80 million active BBM users.