BlackBerry has beefed up its mobile messaging app for BlackBerry 10, iOS and Android users.
Unveiled Sunday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the latest version of BlackBerry Messenger adds what the company calls "one of the most requested BBM features" -- custom PINs. A PIN, typically a reference to a personal identification number, allows you to add someone as a BBM contact without having to give that person your phone number or email address. Now, instead of having to use a random PIN assigned by BlackBerry, you can create your own custom PIN. However, you'll pay for the privilege. A custom PIN from the BBM Shop will cost you $1.99 per month.
For a price, you can also go ad-free. For 99 cents a month, the new version will remove all ads in BBM, both those from your feed and those packaged as sponsored invites from BlackBerry partners. Both the custom PIN and ad-free options are part of BlackBerry's move to offer more subscription-based features.
As its share of the worldwide mobile phone market dipped last year to around 0.4 percent, BlackBerry has tried to focus on other services, such as Messenger. The company has been willing to expand BBM's reach to more popular mobile platforms, including and over the past two years, as a way to lure in more users. The iOS and Android editions captured 10 million downloads in the first 24 hours.
On Sunday, BlackBerry also revealed plans toby taking certain features such as its Hub messaging portal, virtual keyboard and security capabilities and packaging them as a collection of apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices.
What else will BBM users find in the latest update?
BBM users who contribute to Channels can now do so through the desktop client, typically a quicker and easier way to post content if you're in front of your PC. You can also now share photos in group chats.
iOS users of BBM will find a couple of new features. You can now ensure that your BBM conversations are more private by password protecting them, either via a passcode or a Touch ID fingerprint. You can also now use your iOS device in landscape mode to more easily write and edit your chat messages.
Android users -- BlackBerry hasn't forgotten about you. The latest version of BBM now supports smartwatches equipped with Android Wear, Google's mobile OS for wearable devices. You can get alerts on your watch when new BBM messages arrive and read the entire message. You can respond to messages by voice using the Google Now voice assistant. And you can accept BBM invites directly from your watch.
"This update gives users even more control over the BBM experience by adding new personalization and privacy options." Herman Li, senior vice president for BBM Software Development, said in a statement. "By tailoring the update to take advantage of platform specific features such as Touch ID on iOS and Android Wear support we are able to enhance the overall experience uniquely for each platform."
The update is scheduled to roll out to BlackBerry 10 and Android users on Monday. It's already been submitted to the app stores for both operating systems, but a BlackBerry spokeswoman told CNET that it can take up to 24 hours for the update to show up.
The update has also been submitted to Apple and should be available soon, though the spokeswoman couldn't provide a specific release date. Windows Phone users will also receive all the new features in the future but no date has yet been scheduled.
Mobile World Congress 2019
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