BBM nation paging all messengers

BBM nation paging all messengers

INDONESIA - The joke goes that an American invented WhatsApp, a Canadian invented BBM, a Chinese invented WeChat, a Korean invented Line - but Indonesians invented the time to use them all.

The popular messaging service BBM has been the buzzword in the media scene over the past few weeks after the Canadian telecommunications firm BlackBerry Limited made the formerly exclusive messenger app available on multiple platforms.

Indonesian iPhone and Android users were among the masses that forced BlackBerry to abandon its initial plan of launching the cross-platform BBM in September after a rogue version of it leaked, causing problems due to increased traffic loads.

"After failing to download it last month, now I have the app on my HTC One. I am actively using it," said 25-year-old Maria Qibti.

She used to have a BlackBerry before she migrated a few years back to an Android smartphone, which she considered to have a better performance. She soon downloaded the ubiquitous WhatsApp and the sticker-crazed Line on her Android.

She was happy with the apps for quite some time - until BlackBerry made its move.

"I just had to have BBM on my smartphone when the opportunity knocked," said the HR officer.

Most of her friends - as do many Indonesians - wield multiple gadgets and have retained their BBM contacts despite wave after wave of new smartphones and platforms.

"I lost contact with most of them when I abandoned my BlackBerry, but now I can reach them again. There was actually quite a fanfare when I made the comeback to my old BBM groups," Maria said.

BlackBerry announced this week that more than 20 million people worldwide had downloaded and used the BBM messaging app on iPhone and Android smartphones in the week since the launch. The company revealed that after 10 million downloads in its first 24 hours, the app picked up another 10 million in the following six days.

Yolanda Nainggolan, BlackBerry Indonesia spokesperson, said that BBM received a very positive reaction for its cross-platform release, with the app becoming the overall top free application in 35 countries in its first week in digital marketplace Google Play and in 107 countries at Apple's App Store.

"It is currently maintaining a good download rate in a number of markets including Indonesia, Canada, the US, the UK and a number of Middle Eastern countries," said Yolanda, adding that they had yet to be able to provide detailed data on downloader numbers.

Indonesian consumers have been known to have three or four different messaging apps on their smartphones, which, unlike BBM's rather stripped-down look, offer sticker, game or content delivery add-on features.

A latest study presented by Yahoo! and Mindshare shows that by 2017, there would be as many as 103.7 million smartphone owners - a 151 per cent increase compared to numbers estimated for 2013 - in the country.

Pop culture expert Lilawati Kurnia of the University of Indonesia noted that the many BBM downloaders were equipping themselves with more than enough applications.

"Android phone and iPhone users already have messenger applications on their communication devices. It is less about fulfilling communication needs and more about keeping up with lifestyle trends," she said.

She attributed the trend to people's craving to communicate and try something new.

"It is interesting because they are downloading chat applications to communicate with people they usually meet in their daily lives anyway," she said.

"But it doesn't matter, they like to try them anyway. It is something new and they want to have it."

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