*Note: I use my BlackBerry on a T-Mobile plan that allows all-you-can-eat email and BBM whilst roaming for just $20 a month*
As any BlackBerry user will know, one of the best features about RIM’s device – barring the stellar keyboard – is BlackBerry Messenger, which allows people to communicate with other BlackBerry users for free, anytime, anywhere through the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
Indeed, many BlackBerry users stick with the device purely because no other phone or OS has offered any kind of viable replacement for BBM, especially while traveling abroad where data charges are expensive, but BBM remains free and utterly usable. Case in point, I spent the last two weeks traveling across Europe and Asia, used BBM every single day and have not a cent extra on my phone bill. Count me a happy customer, RIM.
Which is why I fail to comprehend the sheer exuberance over Apple’s newly announced messaging system iMessage. It is indeed similar to BBM in that it’s proprietary and works only for people using the same OS – one of BBM’s failings, if you ask me – but it doesn’t seem to have the advantage of being globally usable for no extra cost.
Try leaving your Apple iPhone open while 3G roaming in Taiwan for a week and see what kind of bill you get. Just try it. I dare you. And sure, it works on Wi-Fi, but who cares, so does Google chat. The main benefit of BBM is that it uses BES, and as such, does not add dollars on to your data bill. Same with email. BlackBerry users enjoy unlimited free email abroad thanks to BES, while Apple users are constantly on the hunt for a McDonalds with WiFi, like junkies looking for their next hit. It’s actually quite amusing to watch.
Also, touch-screen keyboards have to be one of the most annoying platforms to use when it comes to rapid messaging – I’ll stick to my physical keyboard any day, thanks.
So while the Engadgets and Apple fanboys/girls of the world will try to spin this as being a massive blow to RIM, I’m actually not sure it is at all. Also, RIM now has until October – when iOS5 is officially released – to make its fabulous BBM service cross platform and stop Apple in its tracks.
Will the Canadian company do it? I don’t know, but I have all my fingers crossed.