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The cross-platform emergence of BlackBerry's free Messenger app is a godsend to the BlackBerry faithful. Once restricted to BlackBerry devices, the app's expansion to Android, iOS, and now Windows Phone has the potential to bring a horde of new users into the BBM fold.
BlackBerry knows this is an absolutely necessary transition. And BBM for Windows Phone is sprinting right out of the gate: it has stripped off the Beta label it wore for just over a month, and is already almost as good a BBM experience as the one you'll find on iOS or Android. But great features like BBM Voice still haven't arrived, and BBM still can't quite compete with existing, well-entrenched messaging apps.
The BBM app looks a little different to its Android and iOS counterparts, and quite at home on Windows Phone 8. The flat, clean interface is attractively simple, split up into three different columns.
The Chats section is where all of your conversations live, and you'll create new individual and group messages here. Slide over one space for Feeds, which behaves like a social network's newsreel and displays status updates from your contacts. Contacts are exactly that: a list of all of your contacts and any groups you've created.
Unlabeled icons running along the bottom of each of those three sections offer a few extra options, though you'll need to bring up the app's menu to see what they actually are. That's OK -- they're all rather straightforward and make for a nice, clean interface.
Anyone who wants to chat with you on BBM will need to have a free BlackBerry account and an eight-digit PIN. You'll trade that PIN number with anyone you'd like to chat with, as it's ostensibly more secure than sharing sensitive information like a phone and email address. Either way it's a very simple process: once you've created your PIN, you can send conversation invites to friends in your address book (inviting them to create BlackBerry IDs), or input their PIN if you know it.