Wi-Fi-only BBM Voice Chat Possibly Getting Group Chat and Cellular Support in the Future
With the release of BBM 7 beta on the 14th November comes the addition of a great free feature, the BBM Voice Chat, a service that allows you to voice chat with other BlackBerry owners for free over Wi-Fi. With over 60 million active customers, this addition is a welcome change for those who have spotty cellular services in their countries or are traveling overseas and do not want to incur additional costs. Of course, this service isn't entirely new - Skype has had its place in voice chat services for years and Apple has its FaceTime video/voice chat service for quite awhile now. Nonetheless, the shift to include the voice chat feature is a heartening move on RIM's part, as one of its core strategy to provide "real time engagement". Of course, this will not cannibalize into their messaging service but instead will work hand-in-hand with each other as users can use other functions of their device while in voice chat, such as reading texts/emails, messaging and sending pictures to other BBM contacts.
Currently, the service only operates on Wi-Fi. Moving forward, T.A. McCann, Vice President of Product Strategy, Research In Motion, has mentioned that they are considering plans to incorporate group chats (currently, users can only chat with one BBM user at one time) and allow BBM Voice Chat to operate over cellular networks.
With BlackBerry 10 devices coming up on the 30th of Jan, BBM 7.0 comes with a crucial update in which your PIN is now associated with your BlackBerry ID. This backs up users' BBM profiles, groups and contacts, providing a seamless transition from older BlackBerry devices to BB10 smartphones. Currently, BBM 7.0 beta supports OS 6 and higher with plans to make it backwards compatible with the older BlackBerry OS 5.
The beta app has seen considerable success, with over 50,000 downloads and thousands of calls made during the two weeks since its release. To leverage on this new service, BlackBerry users can sign up to the BBM7 beta by going to BlackBerry's Beta Zone at www.blackberry.com/betazone. Keep in mind that voice chats can only be made with users who have installed BBM 7.0 beta on their handsets.