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BlackBerry Messenger 6 puts the chat in apps and games

BlackBerry Messenger 6 is chatting up apps. The latest version of the wildly popular instant messaging client will let you chat in apps and games and even challenge friends to head-to-head contests.

BlackBerry Messenger 6 is chatting up apps. The latest version of the wildly popular BlackBerry instant messaging client will let you chat in apps and games on your smart phone, tell your friends which apps you love and even challenge them to head-to-head contests.

For the first time, BBM chats appear in the apps themselves, so you can chat with friends without interrupting what you're doing -- or even trash-talk your buddies as you play against each other in games.

New features include status updates on your BBM profile when you use BBM-connected apps. High scores and achievements such as Foursquare badges and the like can be displayed to friends in a special section of your profile.

BBM chatting is built into various apps, including Foursquare, the Huffington Post, Wikitude and assorted games. You can tell friends which apps you're using, recommending the app or challenging them to download a game and go head to head with you. Users post which apps they're using to their profile, which friends can see and download if they want.

App platforms have clearly recognised the importance of word-of-mouth sharing and recommendation of apps. The latest version of the Android Market also displays a prominent icon on each app's page, inviting the user to share a link on social networks, via text or email, or Bluetooth to a nearby phone.

Despite BlackBerry's staid, be-suited image, the free BBM service has driven RIM's consumer sales to overtake business sales some time ago -- particularly among teens. We used a phone-charging station at a music festival recently, and we can testify that The Kids love their BlackBerrys.

At BlackBerry World in May, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion claimed there are a staggering 43 million active BBM users worldwide. Seventy per cent of BBMers send messages every day, and an eye-watering 100 billion messages are sent each month. Sadly there are no figures for how many of those messages are completely incomprehensible to anyone over 30.

But BBM has a number of challenges ahead, from Apple's forthcoming iMessage service for iOS 5 on the iPhone and iPad to Nokia's promised IM service.

You can download BlackBerry Messenger 6 from the BlackBerry App World now, and BBM-packing apps will follow later this week. Are you a big BBMer? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section or on our Facebook page.