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BlackBerry Messenger arrives on iOS and Android (pictures)

You can finally get BBMs without a BlackBerry phone, but the experience is unimpressive.

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sarahmitroff.jpg

Sarah Mitroff

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1 of 7 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

BlackBerry Messenger

Seven years after its debut, BlackBerry Messenger leaves its walled garden and heads to iPhones and Android devices. The app, which is free to download in the Google Play store and App Store, offers the typical BBM experience with photo sharing, group chats, and those handy little icons that tell you when your friend received and read your message.

After you sign up for an account (or log in to an existing one), you'll get to the main screen of the app, which shows your most recent chats.

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2 of 7 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Invite to chat

Adding contacts to BBM is a tedious process. You need to invite your friends to chat with you by sending your unique PIN by e-mail, text message, or BBM message. Once they accept the invitation, you can start chatting. You get a PIN when you sign up for an account.

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3 of 7 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Contacts

As soon as you start inviting people to chat with you, your contact page will start to fill up. You can view your contacts on a grid with their full-size photo, or as a list.

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4 of 7 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Sending messages

Chatting in BBM is simple: just type your message and hit send. You can add emoticons, photos, and voice messages to your conversation.

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5 of 7 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Group chats

You can either start a group chat from the right-side menu in the app or add extra people to an existing one-on-one conversation.

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6 of 7 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Ping!

One feature from the original BBM is Ping. If your friend isn't replying fast enough, or you just want to get his attention, you can ping him, which vibrates his phone and plays a special tone.

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7 of 7 Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Sending photos

You can snap a photo and share it in a conversation, or send an existing photo. However, you cannot share photos in a group chat.

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