Okay, so remember about a month ago when our friends at BlackBerry were supposed to launch the BBM app for Android and iPhone, so that people on other smartphone platforms could connect with their friends still on the BB platform? While that attempt to launch was quickly scuppered thanks to security concerns, it wasn’t shelved permanently, and this past week, BlackBerry finally got the apps out into the real world, and quickly moved millions of downloads out the door.
So everything is cool, right?
Well, not so fast. As a number of people who downloaded the app quickly found out, downloading the app didn’t actually mean that they could start to USE it. After installing the app, people were greeted with a splash screen stating that “BBM is on its way! [...] Due to the incredible demand there is a line-up to start using BBM.”
In other words, thanks for waiting. Now wait a bit longer.
While some folks were already pre-registered for the service and had their place in line already automatically held, others had to wait a bit to get activated. (Someone in my social feeds doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation figured they might have to wait a few weeks based on the speed of activations at that point. Hopefully things are going a bit faster than that, for all concerned.)
For me, it took a couple of days to finally receive the email that I was good to go. So, entering my email address into the app, I clicked through and got the app set up. And then I started trying to add friends into my completely empty contact list. “Trying” being the operative word. A group of us at my office gathered around in a circle and started trying to add each other so we could try the app out.
First: while it’s a brilliant idea to be able to scan a QR code on someone else’s smartphone (or from one of the many Facebook profile pics that appeared shortly after the app finally launched), actually making it work was another story. After trying in vain for several minutes to get our cameras to focus properly on each others’ screens, we switched to manual PIN entry and email-based invites. And then waited. And waited.
And when those invites finally rolled through to each other about 12 hours later, I had already given up and moved on to other ways of getting in touch with people. Between the delays on getting people signed up for the service and the delays I had in actually getting people added to my contact list, I was starting to wonder if there was someone sitting at BlackBerry’s Waterloo campus processing all of these requests by printing them out, filling in a form, faxing it to another building and then waiting for someone else to do some data input. The time from invite to receipt now seems a bit more immediate, thankfully.
Now, with all that said and many of the problems out of the way, I understand some of the reasons why people want to get BBM running on their handsets, including wanting to be back in touch with friends currently on BB handsets, or the always-on nature of BBM making it a service that works like your phone’s text messaging service (but better!).
On the other hand, all of these problems getting this up and running has let me, and a few people I know, into some serious reflection as to why – despite millions of downloads of the app – we’re even bothering with BBM. As my Facebook friend Buzz points out:
“I have your Twitter account and email address. We are Facebook friends and I know your cell number. Not to mention LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram. Can someone please explain why I need to be on BBM too?”
And with the growing number of users already using apps like WhatsApp that do many of the same things, it’s a great question. If any of you out there have a good answer, I’m all ears.