BlackBerry just can’t catch a break.
It made the gutsy move of deciding to build a brand new, from-scratch operating system, but then delivered it wildly late, well after the majority of its users had already left. Trying for a comeback, it got Grammy-winning Alicia Keys to be its creative director, and then she tweeted from an iPhone. And after finally making its most-loved app, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), available for iOS and Android devices, it’s embroiled in a weird cut-and-paste scandal, accused of peppering Google’s Play app store with fake positive reviews.
BlackBerry has denied any involvement.
A spokesperson told The Next Web in a statement:
“We have been made aware of a number of potentially fake reviews of BBM for Android on Google Play, with rating anywhere from one to five stars. We have no knowledge of how these reviews were created or populated. We do not approve of or condone such activities. There are also many genuinely great and useful reviews from our new BBM users on Google Play. We would like to encourage our fans and users to continue to provide true assessments of the BBM experience through the proper channels.”
Twitter user Abhay, an engineering student with terrible taste in pizza, posted a photo to Twitter Oct. 23 showing a list of reviewers with the exact-same, poorly written review: “Thank you so much blackberry team. I was waiting this app. Its really great user friendly and smooth”
The Inquirer reports that Google Play is working with BlackBerry to have the fake reviews removed.
BlackBerry announced intentions to launch BBM for iOS and Android at BlackBerry Live in May, and in September finally readied itself to launch the app, but then quickly pulled back, citing issues. On Oct. 21, the app was finally made available and Android and iPhone users downloaded it more than 10 million times in the first 24 hours.
“This has been an incredible launch for BBM across Android and iPhone devices,” BlackBerry said in an Oct. 22 statement. “We intend to be the leading private social network for everyone who needs the immediate communication and collaboration of instant messaging combined with the privacy, control and reliability delivered through BBM.”
BBM enables users to have a real-time view of when their message has been delivered and read, and when a contact is responding; lets a user share files and chat with multiple contacts at once; lets users post status updates; and makes it possible to be identified by only a PIN number—a popular feature in cultures where young men and women can’t publically socialize.
BlackBerry is currently considering selling its business outright, or portions of the business—it signed a Letter of Intent with Fairfax Financial Holdings, its largest stakeholder, in September, and has until Nov. 4 to consider other options and suitors.
In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that BlackBerry is considering spinning off BBM as a separate entity and had transitioned several key executives to its BBM division. Analysts, at the time, said such a move, like much at BlackBerry, would likely be too little, too late to make a difference for the struggling phone maker.