As Research in Motion moves ever closer to the launch of BlackBerry 10, so it continues to drip feed a selection of news and new products, just to keep us on our toes until the big day. This week, it’s the introduction of BBM Voice, a new, improved version of the old BlackBerry Messenger service.
Any BlackBerry user, past or present, will be familiar with BBM. A staple feature of RIM’s hardware, it provided free messaging between BlackBerry owners, and is one of the primary reasons the OS has proven so popular with cash-strapped teenagers in recent years.
BBM Voice takes it to the next level by adding free voice calls too, meaning any BBM enabled contact in your address book can be called up without charge, provided you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network. This sees BlackBerry Messenger take the likes of Skype, and improve on services such as WhatsApp and Apple’s own iMessage.
Ideal for avoiding international roaming charges, BBM Voice has a split screen mode for simultaneous text and voice communication, plus you can swap between them should you need to disconnect from the Wi-Fi network. BBM Voice even works with Bluetooth headsets.
There are two drawbacks though. The first is unlike its competitors, it doesn’t appear to work over a 3G data network, confining its use to home, the office or a friendly coffee shop. The second is for you to make use of BBM Voice, your friends will all have to use BlackBerry phones too, and there just aren’t as many around these days.
Of course, RIM’s hope is that features like BBM Voice will see people adopt BlackBerry 10 when it’s finally released. We’ll find out if that’s the case after 30 January 30 next year. In the meantime, anyone with access to the BlackBerry Beta Zone can download a copy of BBM Version 7, which has BBM Voice included.