Beleaguered Canadian handset maker BlackBerry continues to build out its popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). This week, the company released a version for Apple’s iPad and iPods.
Last month, BlackBerry issued an update for Android devices and for the iPhone, which resulted in 10 million downloads of the free app within 24 hours. That move, which had been delayed several weeks because of traffic issues arising from the release of an unauthorized version, resulted in an expansion of the user base to 80 million, up from 60 million.
This new expansion to Apple’s other two mobile product lines is also expected to increase the user base. The update, which will work on iPads or iPods running iOS 6 or higher, also fixes some bugs, including the accidental deletion of BBM contact names for some users on the iPhone and a battery draining issue on Android devices. On the Android version, there’s also an enhancement of the group list sorting and filtering, so categories can be better organized and shared.
There is also a feature to issue an e-mail invitation to invite BBM contacts to Groups, even without knowing their PINs.
But not yet announced are plans for BBM for Windows Phone devices or for Android tablets, as the only supported Android devices so far are those with screens of 7 inches or less. Additionally, the BBM version for the iPad is not designed specifically for a tablet’s screen.
Shortly after the launch of the iOS and Android versions of BBM, the app moved to the top of Apple and Google app store lists for most popular. But now the initial wave has subsided, and BBM is out of the top 50 or top 100 Google apps in the U.S. By contrast, the popular Snapchat, which came out two years ago, is still in third place in Apple’s store and number 10 in Google’s.
Andrew Bocking, head of BBM, said in a statement that “the nature of applications is that there will be spikes and valleys in store rankings,” especially as new updates and features are released. He added that BBM continues to be in the top 10 lists for Apple’s App Store in over 60 countries, and in 30 countries for Google Play.
BlackBerry is also moving forward on some other product fronts, although quietly. On Thursday, it released the Z30 large-screen smartphone in the U.S. through Verizon, but without any formal announcements. The device had been launched in Asia in September.
Al Hilwa, Program Director for Application Development at IDC, told us that BBM represents “an opportunity and a lifeline for the brand, if they can grow it as a social network,” even though it currently does not provide much revenue.
As for the bigger issue of whether developers’ interest in the BlackBerry 10 platform has stabilized following the recent infusion of $1 billion by an investment group, the replacement of the CEO, and the taking down of the company’s “for sale” sign, Hilwa said his impression is that third-party developers “are moving on.” He added that developers already “have their hands full with two major platforms” of iOS and Android, plus whichever one is going to take third place.