What BBM on Android, iOS will have that WhatsApp doesn't

Here's a list of why BBM on Android and iOS smartphones may be better than WhatsApp.

Ivor Soans September 11, 2013 11:53:03 IST
What BBM on Android, iOS will have that WhatsApp doesn't

It’s no secret that I prefer BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) over WhatsApp. My WhatsApp status says, “Prefer BBM.” But perhaps some among you might think I prefer being a dinosaur and stick to BBM, even as the world takes to WhatsApp.

So I decided to make a list of why I preferred BBM, and this is especially important now, because in a few days from now, BBM should be available on Android and iOS smartphones. On September 6, BlackBerry fan site Crackberry.com reported that its been over two weeks since BlackBerry has submitted the iOS app to Apple. And BBM on Android is already in beta.

But let’s look at some numbers first. In June 2013, WhatsApp claimed over 250 million monthly active users. Compared to that humungous number, BBM in May had a measly 60 million monthly active users and 51 million daily active users. Game over for BBM then? Throw in the towel and forget about launching on Android and iOS?

What BBM on Android iOS will have that WhatsApp doesnt

User to user, BBM users send and receive a lot more messages than WhatsApp users and are also far more engaged. Reuters

Not quite, because when you consider that WhatsApp seems shy of revealing daily active users. And when you dig a bit deeper, you find that while WhatsApp claimed a record 27 billion daily messages per day sent on June 13 this year, BBM handles 10 billion messages each day, which BlackBerry claims is nearly twice as many messages per user per day as compared to other mobile messaging apps. So, user to user, BBM users send and receive a lot more messages than WhatsApp users and are also far more engaged — almost half of BBM messages are read within 20 seconds of being received; And here’s why:

Getting Ds and Rs right: Perhaps the biggest reason why I prefer BBM is the Delivered (D) and Read (R) signs next to each message. If a message hasn’t been delivered I don’t see a blue D and till it is read I don’t see a green R. Now, surely some of you are wondering what’s unique about that? Doesn’t WhatsApp have the two tick marks that perform the same function? Here’s WhatsApp’s dirty secret – the two tick marks don’t stand for Delivered and Read.

Don’t believe me, check out WhatsApp’s own FAQ. The single tick mark stands for message delivered to server and the second tick mark stands for message delivered to device. So, if you’ve been upset with your husband for not responding to your message despite the two ticks and you are assuming he has read it but is busy flirting with someone else, chances are he has not. Or maybe he has read it, and is actually flirting with someone else. While BBM can’t tell you if he is indeed cheating on you, it can tell you with certainty that the message has been read and not just delivered.

Security: BlackBerry despite the terrible sales figure remains King of security, and BBM, thanks to BlackBerry’s awesome security heritage is light years ahead of WhatsApp on this critical front. This was brought home to me in a painfully personal way a few weeks ago. A real-estate broker added me and many others to a group he created. Without asking any of us of course.

Since WhatsApp is phone number based, anyone who has your number can add you. Problem is, it exposed my name and number to others in that group. Now, as a 38-year old overweight male, I doubt I’d be the target of sexual harassment but on that group I saw the names of numbers of some ladies and within hours everyone was scrambling to leave the group. But someone could always write down a name and number and harass later. That’s a massive security hole and primarily because WhatsApp uses phone numbers. BBM in comparison uses the device PIN or user ID for Identity.

In contrast, BBM has a far more elegant system where without you authorising another user, he/she cannot send you messages. And if you delete that user, he needs to send you another authorisation message which you have to approve. No need for embarrassing conversations on why you’ve blocked someone, as in WhatsApp.

Privacy: If you’re using WhatsApp and shift/surrender your mobile number, your contacts could be accessed by the new owner of that number, which is a significant breach of privacy.

WhatsApp users also get messages from address book contacts, even if they don’t want to stay connected. And in case you really don’t want to receive messages from someone, you have to block the number, which can be quite embarrassing for both parties. In sharp contrast, BBM doesn’t disclose unnecessary information unless you want to display the same.

Another significant issue with WhatsApp is that it displays the time and date when a user was last active. This hasn’t bothered me, but for heavy IM users, especially teens and college students, this is a significant privacy concern. While you told your boyfriend you were studying and couldn’t chat with him on WhatsApp, the app unfortunately broadcasts the fact that you were active till 3 AM on WhatsApp.

I had never thought how users watch this feature and ergo, how important this privacy hole was till I read this little poem posted by a young friend earlier today on Facebook:

A text, a call.. A missed step, the fall..
Or would you rather be posting on my fb wall?
Wanna hold you face to face and eye to eye for a chat..
Or do I keep checking whatsApp for last seen at..,?

- By Vinita Sharon Gibson

Superior infrastructure: Did you know that BBM is approved for usage by many reputed emergency services in the West? The reason behind it is that BBM rides on BlackBerry’s massive private network that connects carriers with BlackBerry private infrastructure across the globe. This is also why BBM works when mobile networks often seem choked and text and voice calls are not going through. BlackBerry operates an enterprise-grade network that businesses and government agencies of all kinds (including the US Department of Defense) trust for secure and reliable communication. Simply put, WhatsApp doesn’t come close. So, for folks like me who value reliability, it’s a no brainer.

National Security: Granted, none of us like the government snooping on our conversations, but sometimes that’s the only way governments can stay one step ahead of the loonies and terrorists and their ilk. Despite that argument, I’m not an advocate for government monitoring but if you’re one of those who believes they need to support the government wholeheartedly in the mission to rid India of terrorists, etc, you might like to know that while BBM is lawfully compliant in India and meets the Indian government’s requirements for monitoring by security agencies, WhatsApp is not. Even if you’re like me and not really enamoured of government monitoring, the flip side is that the Indian government could decide tomorrow that WhatsApp cannot be allowed and since it is not compliant with the laws of land operators will have to shut down access.

Features, Price and more: Many have asked me if BBM will be free on Android and iOS and if it will come with BBM Video, etc. BlackBerry has promised it will be free and will come with the same features as on BBM on BlackBerry. In contrast, WhatsApp is not free. Personally, I have a few months left before I have to pay up. And when I compare BBM’s infrastructure, ability to tell me if a message is Delivered and Read, high levels of security compared to a complete free-for-all with terrible security and atrocious privacy by WhatsApp, I don’t see why I should pay for WhatsApp, especially since BBM is now coming to the current market leaders in mobile platforms, Android and iOS.

And feature wise, it’s a no-brainer too. BBM has BBM video, enabling video chats, and which works even on cellular data plans while WhatsApp has just introduced Push to Talk. And BBM’s newest feature is BBM Channels, which is like a BBM social network where companies, communities and individuals can set up channels that others can follow and also interact with channel owners. For instance, I follow the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team.

So, even while BlackBerry needs to get its marketing right and the right messages out as they prepare to launch BBM on Android and iOS, fundamentally, they’re starting out with some huge advantages. It would take incredibly dubious marketing genius to muck this one up and despite what BlackBerry fan sites have to say about BlackBerry marketing (the fact remains that BlackBerry 10 was never going to be an easy marketing assault), BBM fans would be hoping they’re not so bad that they muck up the BBM on Android/iOS launch too.

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