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BBM for Android hits 100M downloads, but still no match for WhatsApp

It's a big round number and all, but in the world of mobile messaging BBM remains one of the smaller players.

BBM for Android has reached 100 million downloads. BlackBerry

BlackBerry's mobile messaging application BBM for Android has reached a new milestone. But it might not be time to pop open a champagne bottle just yet.

BBM for Android has reached 100 million downloads in the Google Play store since that application hit the marketplace a year-and-a-half ago. BlackBerry also said that its users have sent over 1 billion stickers -- emoticon-like illustrations -- via the app.

The company's BBM blog post Wednesday was concurrent with the goings-on at the high-profile Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. A day earlier at MWC, BlackBerry talked up its hardware plans for the year, which include the $275 touchscreen BlackBerry Leap, a not-yet-named slider BlackBerry, a phone with the traditional keyboard and a special Porsche edition device. CEO John Chen also said that he's keeping an open mind about whether to get the company back into the tablet game.

Also known as BlackBerry Messenger, BBM was once one of the secret weapons in BlackBerry's mobile arsenal. In the days before the iPhone, it was widely viewed as an ideal method for texting friends and co-workers, but it was available only on BlackBerry devices. As BlackBerry's stature in the marketplace started to falter at the hands of Android- and iOS-based devices, BBM lost some of its allure.

In response, BlackBerry offered up BBM on other platforms, including iOS and Windows Phone, in addition to BlackBerry and Android. The company's decision was part of a broader plan by CEO John Chen to focus BlackBerry's hardware business on corporate users and to become platform-agnostic on the software and services side to boost usage. BlackBerry says that the effort has paid off.

In the world of mobile messaging, however, BBM is one of the smaller players. Facebook-owned WhatsApp has scored between 1 billion and 5 billion app installs on Google Play, while Facebook's own Messenger application has reached between 500 million and 1 billion app installs. China-based WeChat is in the same category of 100 million t0 500 million downloads.

The other issue for BlackBerry is that downloads do not necessarily translate to usage. In September, the company said that BBM had 91 million monthly active users across all platforms, including Android. That was up from 85 million in March.

To put that into perspective, in January WhatsApp had 700 million monthly active users, and in November, WeChat had 468 million monthly active users.

In its blog post this week, BlackBerry didn't provide an update on how many monthly active users it has. The company has not immediately responded to a request for comment on active users.

The BlackBerry announcement comes just days after the company updated its Android app to version 2.7. The update adds Android Wear support and the ability to share photos in group chats, among other features.