Rumors of a new version of BlackBerry Messenger for Android and iOS have been floating around for years now, but today the rumors finally made the jump to reality. BlackBerry just announced that it will make BBM available to both Android and iOS this summer. The service will be made available as a free app for Android users on 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or higher, while Apple hardware owners will need to be on iOS 6 or higher.
In its initial release, BlackBerry says that BBM for Android and iOS users will be able to participate in BBM chats, including multi-person chats, use BBM Groups and send video and voice notes as well. Users will be able to add contacts through PIN, email, SMS or QR codes. The Android crowd will also be able to take advantage of NFC connectivity for adding new contacts.
BlackBerry Messenger has long been one of the most highly-touted features of BlackBerry's various OSes, and it's often been cited as one of the things that keeps people using a BlackBerry device. Because of this it's kind of strange to finally see BlackBerry finally bringing BBM to other platforms. Still, the fact that BBM is finally coming to Android and iOS is big news, and I'm sure that there are quite a few people on both platforms that'll give the service a try once the new apps launch.
In addition to new versions of BBM for Android and iOS, BlackBerry also announced BBM Channels. This new feature of the messaging service will allow brands, artists, businesses and other entities to create a special BBM profile that can be used to connect with fans. Users can follow Channels to receive instant updates and like, share and comment on those posts. The service also allows users to create their own BBM Channels to build up a following and use tools to measure engagement and interaction with the Channel's followers.
BBM with BBM Channels is now available to BlackBerry 10 hardware as well as BlackBerry devices running OS 5 through OS 7.1. Those users on BlackBerry OS 5 through OS 7.1 will be able to use BBM Channels as part of BBM version 8, which also packs in enahnced navigation tools like tabbed views for contacts, chats, groups, recent updates and BBM Channels. BlackBerry expects that BBM Channels will be available to Android and iOS users later this year.