At the end of October, BBM or BlackBerry Messenger, launched for Android and iOS, extending its reach from just the BlackBerry platform. This was a month late; the initial plan had been to launch at the end of September, however this was scrapped after an unofficial leaked copy appeared on Google Play hours before. Nevertheless, this did not affected the app’s later release – it was downloaded 20 million times during the week after launching, which means that there are now 80 million active BBMers. The app reached the top of Apple’s App Store’s free charts in 107 countries during its first week of issue.
This successful performance is, of course, good for BlackBerry – BBM has been hailed as one of its most valuable assets and in order to be successful in the long term, the app will need as large a scale as possible. However, is this scale enough to compete with the big players in the mobile messaging marketplace?
- WhatsApp had 300m active users as of August 2013, who send 11 billion messages per day
- WeChat announced in August 2013 that it had 236m active users
- LINE had 230m registered users as of August 2013, 47 million, or 20%, of whom were in Japan
- Viber stated it had 200m users in May 2013, and was growing at 400,000 new users per day
- Tango had 150m users in September 2013
- Kakao Talk passed 100m registered users in July 2013
BlackBerry has the advantage that many users have an affinity with BBM, and whilst they no longer own BlackBerry phones, they are delighted they can now download the app, but is this enough in such a competitive marketplace? One thing which is important to note is that apps such as Viber and LINE also include the ability to make voice calls as part of the app, something which the iOS and Android BBM app does not include, but which BlackBerry users can enjoy.
Furthermore, Facebook has a standalone messaging app, and there are rumours afoot that Twitter is also going to launch one, increasing the rivalry in this marketplace.
It is unlikely that the large players listed above will be affected as BlackBerry extends its reach in the messaging marketplace; of course some churn is likely as customers try out new services, however in the medium term users will remain loyal to the messaging apps which the majority of their friends and contacts are using. Kakao has bolstered its platform with mobile games, which are popular with its South Korean core users, and Tango recently partnered with Spotify, allowing users to inserts a 30-second clip from Spotify’s music catalogue into a message.
Indeed those who will be most affected will be the network operators who now have another free-to-download communications app to compete with, which will put downward pressure on their voice and text revenues.