BB messenger app's flaws taint memories

Having been a BlackBerry user during the height of the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) craze, I was highly anticipating the release of the app on the Google Play store.

While none of my friends use BBM any longer, I wanted to rekindle memories with this chat service.

It wasn't too long ago when BBM was such an attractive offering that it was the sole reason why many of my friends opted for a BlackBerry device. It allowed users to message each other for free over an Internet connection, at a time before popular messaging apps - such as WhatsApp, Line and Viber - had been introduced.

I would say BBM was the pioneer of smartphone messaging.

With the advancement of other operating systems, BlackBerry has unfortunately taken a steep fall. The release of the BBM app for Android and iOS devices is seen as the firm's last effort in capitalising on a brand name.

That brand name still means something.

On the first day of its release last month, it garnered over a million downloads from the Google Play store alone.

The demand was so great that users who didn't pre-register had to submit their e-mail addresses upon opening the app for the first time, to secure a spot on a waiting list - a requirement which has since been removed.

First impressions

Those who are familiar with only BBM from years ago will find the app hardly recognisable, as it follows the user interface of BB10, which debuted on BlackBerry's Z10 model earlier this year.

The interface features three panes, which took me quite some time to get used to, as the interface isn't consistent throughout the different pages and screens. Many a time, I found myself accidentally opening a menu or closing a chat while trying.

Another thing I dislike about the user interface is that the keyboard pops up automatically when I open an unread message. While this could be useful for speedy replies, it makes very few of the message lines visible.

One of the more memorable features that come with BBM is the Ping button, which is like the nudge button found on the now-defunct MSN messenger, or the poke button for Facebook. It is a good way of getting your chat buddy's attention.

The most common gripe about the app thus far is that the notification icon of the app is always present in the notification bar. It can be annoying to those who prefer keeping their notification clean and tidy, but this is said to be necessary for the app to work.

One chat app too many

The app's arrival on other platforms is a little too late, as most people are already locked down with other chat messengers. For example, I will not be able to move away from WhatsApp as almost all my contacts are using it as their primary messaging app.

One of the complaints I've been hearing is about how inconvenient it is to add new contacts. Each user is given a unique eight-character alphanumeric pin ID, which needs to be obtained in order to add new users. Other popular chat messengers add your contacts automatically via your phonebook.

Final thoughts

It took the app long enough to reach Android users. The question now is if it was worth the wait, and whether the app can help reverse BlackBerry's fortunes.

The app is still relatively new and is understandably buggy. It will take a few more updates before some of my gripes with the interface can be addressed.

The writer is a full-time auditor and big-time gadget lover.

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