BBM gets better on iOS and Android: Voice calls, location sharing and more

BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) for iPhones and Android devices gained new features on Thursday that makes the software on par with BlackBerry’s(s bbry) own phones, which also see added functionality. Users across platforms can now make free voice calls to BBM contacts over Wi-Fi or a mobile broadband connection and can easily share files or location with other BBM members. The changes follow just two days after BlackBerry’s head of BBM, Andrew Brocking, left the company.
BlackBerry announced the complete list of features, which are available later today as a software update, in a blog post highlighting the new features:

  • BBM Voice: Android(s goog) and iPhone(s aapl) users can now make free voice calls to BBM contacts over a WiFi or data connection
  • BBM Channels: iPhone and Android users now have access to BBM Channels – active, real conversations between people, brands and communities; users can create a new channel or subscribe to an existing BBM channel to join chats with others who share similar interests
  • One-Click Sharing: BBM users on Android, iPhone and BlackBerry devices have access to fast one-click sharing of photos, documents, voice notes and more
  • DropBox Integration: Built-in support for Dropbox with the BBM app makes it easy to send large files like presentations and videos; send files from your personal cloud directly to a BBM contact and save files directly to your smartphone or add it to your Dropbox account
  • New Emoticons: BBM users will be able to choose from 100 new emoticons
  • Location Sharing: BBM users can choose to share their live location for a specified amount of time to other BBM contacts, powered by Glympse

While BlackBerry handset sales have plunged, the company is still maintaining consumer market visibility with BBM across multiple mobile operating systems. It’s difficult to say if that approach will ever pay off — it’s a long shot at best — but I do like how BlackBerry is maturing BBM. Adding integration with Dropbox and Glympse services as well as including voice over IP are smart plays to keep the software useful and relevant.