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BBM on iPhone and Android this summer, for free

BBM, the popular BlackBerry Messenger service, is coming to the iPhone and Android this summer, and it'll be free.

BlackBerry Messenger is finally coming to the iPhone and Android phones, so you can chat with your BBM buddies without buying a BlackBerry phone -- and it'll be free.

BlackBerry announced today that the popular instant messaging service will be available as an app for iOS and Android devices this summer.

It'll work on Apple devices running iOS 6 software or better -- iOS 7 is due this summer -- and Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean.

It was BBM that made traditionally business-focused BlackBerry phones the surprise choice for many younger phone owners, so they could chat with friends for a flat fee rather than per message. But in recent years the rise of even more affordable Android phones and rival IM apps such as WhatsApp and Viber have tempted the yoof away.

Unlike WhatsApp and the rest, BBM only works on BlackBerry, so when users abandon their BlackBerry for an Android phone, they abandon BBM too -- until now.

"It's a statement of confidence," said BlackBerry boss Thorsten Heins, speaking at today's BlackBerry Live event. "We are confident the time is right for BBM to be independent."

Also at BlackBerry Live, a new budget-friendly Qwerty phone with the latest BB10 software was unveiled. The colourful Q5, successor to the Q10 and Z10, will arrive this summer. 

Is this a shrewd move by BlackBerry, or has the last reason to own a BlackBerry phone just vanished forever? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook wall.