BBM for iOS, Android Downloads Hits 20 Million in First Week

BBM for iOS and Android is now actively used by 80 million people and, if even only slightly, giving people something nice to say about BlackBerry.

BlackBerry Messenger, the most popular feature of the ailing smartphone brand, continues to make fans of iPhone and Android users. BlackBerry made BBM available for its rival platforms Oct. 20, and within 24 hours the app had been downloaded 10 million times.

In the first week, BlackBerry said in an Oct. 29 update, total downloads reached 20 million new users, bringing the total number of active, monthly BBM users to 80 million.

"It is great to see so many people downloading BBM, but the true measure for us is engagement—the connections being made and the conversations in which our BBM community engages," Andrew Bocking, executive vice president of BBM, said in a statement. "The power of BBM has always been the active, real conversations and interaction that our customers enjoy."

BBM is a text-messaging app that further enables users to share photos and voice notes, as well as Facebook-like status updates. Up to 30 people can chat in a BBM Group at once, and there's the option to be identified by a PIN number instead of a user name—a perk that BlackBerry says saves users from giving their phone number or email to a casual contact.

At BlackBerry World 2013 in May, BlackBerry introduced BBM Channels, a way of BBM-ing with celebrities, brands and interest groups.

And still another major perk of BBM is that it's free, saving users from incurring texting-messaging fees from their carriers.

"From here on out, we will focus on active users of BBM and will no longer focus on simple download numbers," Bocking added.

BBM Is Boosting Brand Perception

The success of BBM for Android and iOS is a welcome change for BlackBerry, which in recent years has struggled to hold on to users and, in recent quarters, has failed to gain business-changing momentum with its new BlackBerry 10 platform.

In August, BlackBerry announced that it was open to options, including being bought—which is now in the process of happening—and in September it shared news of a $965 million quarterly loss.

The new BBM app has done more to improve public perception of the badly banged-up BlackBerry brand than full-page ads it took out in major newspapers Oct. 15, asserting its resilience, according to YouGov BrandIndex. The firm tracks the daily "Buzz" score of brands, using consumer interviews and a scale of minus 100 to 100, with zero representing a perfectly neutral score. It asks consumers—more than 4,300 each day—what they've heard about a brand in recent days and was it positive or negative. Positive comments nudge the score upward, and negative the other way.

BlackBerry's Buzz score reached 9 in late February, but by Sept. 1 "had dwindled to 2," Ted Marzilli, managing director of BrandIndex, said in an Oct. 25 blog post.

On Sept. 23 the score fell to zero and continued to fall, reaching minus 8 Oct. 15, the day the ads appeared. It fell to minus 9 for a few days and then settled at minus 7.

On the day BBM for Android and iOS became available, says YouGov, BlackBerry's Buzz score climbed two points, to minus 5. It also rose on the firm's Purchase Consideration scale, which ranges from zero to 100 percent. The brand hit a peak of 9 percent in February with the BlackBerry Z10's launch, but at the time of the ads fell to 5 percent. After the new BBM app, it rose to 6 percent.

As of Oct. 28, YouGov told eWEEK, BlackBerry's Purchase Consideration was at 5 percent, and its Buzz score was minus 5.

"It actually hit minus 4 on the 27th," a spokesperson added.

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