Those eagerly awaiting the release of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for iOS and Android have just a few more days to wait.
BlackBerry has announced that its so-called "mobile social network," previously only available for BlackBerry smartphones, will begin rolling out for Android and iPhone users around the world on 21 September. Once it launches, BBM will be available as a free download on Google Play and via the App Store.
"With more than a billion Android, iOS, and BlackBerry smartphones in the market, and no dominant mobile messaging platform, this is absolutely the right time to bring BBM to Android and iPhone customers," Andrew Bocking, executive vice president for BBM at BlackBerry, said in a statement.
The app will let users chat with friends on Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry. Users will be able to see that their message has been delivered, and also see when their friend is responding to a message. In addition, users will be able to share files, voice notes, and schedules right though the app.
There's also support for up to 30-person group chats and a feature known as broadcast message for blasting all your BBM contacts at once.
Each BBM user is given a unique PIN, so they don't have to give out their phone number or email address to new contacts. The app also lets users post personal messages, a profile photo, and status updates.
"BBM will continue to evolve quickly," BlackBerry said in a statement. "Later this year, BBM Channels will provide a forum for active, real conversations between you and the people, brands, celebrities, artists, service providers, communities and more, that matter to you."
In addition, BlackBerry is also planning to add video- and voice-calling features for Android and iPhone in future versions.
At this point, BBM has more than 60 million monthly active users on BlackBerry alone. Users collectively send and receive more than 10 billion BBM messages each day, and most spend an average of 90 minutes per day using the app.
The app will be available for Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean on 21 September and iPhones running iOS 6 and iOS 7 on 22 September. In addition to finding it in the App Store and Google Play, users will be able to download BBM by visiting BBM.com from their smartphone browser.
Meanwhile, word spread last month that BlackBerry is looking to spin off BBM into a separate business that would compete with the likes of Viber and WhatsApp. That rumour came about two weeks after BlackBerry announced the hiring of a special committee to explore "strategic alternatives" that range from partnerships to a complete sale of the company.
According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, the troubled phone maker is now gearing up to cut up to 40 per cent of its employees. The layoffs will reportedly affect all departments, totaling several thousand employees.
When asked about the WSJ report, a BlackBerry spokesperson said the company does not comment on rumours or speculation.
"As previously stated, we are in the second phase of our transformation plan," the spokesperson said in an email. "Organizational moves will continue to occur to ensure we have the right people in the right roles to drive new opportunities in mobile computing."
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