With A Launch Fast Approaching, BlackBerry Pushes Out iOS & Android BBM Beta Invites

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BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins confirmed this past May that BBM would come to iOS and Android “this summer”, which of course means that advertised launch window is rapidly closing. There’s still no official word on when BlackBerry is going to push its cross-platform messaging app out the door, some new images released today indicate things are chugging along at a decent clip.

The first image (seen above) was obtained by BGR and depicts a seemingly near-final version of the app running on a Samsung Galaxy S III… though it doesn’t shed much light on what the BBM Android experience is actually like. Those early impressions should be trickling out any day now, as BlackBerry has also begun extending BBM beta invitations to certain Android users whose devices run 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or later.

Frankly, it’s still a little confusing to me that BlackBerry is taking this approach in the first place. I mean, for a long while there, BlackBerrys were the smartphones to own and at least part of its appeal hinged on its curiously hardy (well, mostly hardy) messaging system. Of course, making the leap to alternative platforms presents its own set of issues, not least of which is the fact that iOS and Android are already saturated with free or freemium messaging apps.

Then again, BlackBerry may just be banking on BBM’s prominence as a way to build more buzz around the BlackBerry brand. It could honestly use some help, especially in light of some strained financials. Company representatives said during BlackBerry’s most recent (and none too confidence-inspiring) earnings call that roughly 40% of its device shipments over the past quarter were its new BB10 phones, which works out to 2.72 million units moved. That’s more than double what the company shipped in the previous quarter, but the folks in Waterloo apparently didn’t think enough of the number to break it out in an earnings release. The same goes for BlackBerry’s subscriber base, which dipped by some 4 million users between Q4 2013 and Q1 2014 (before you assault me in the comments, BB’s fiscal calendar is a little weird like that) with nary a mention in the initial release.

But still, pushing out a messaging app into two marketplaces that are already full to the brim with them is a very curious move indeed, and one that on the surface seems like something of a stinker. Maybe I’m wrong — maybe bringing BBM to the masses just might be what BlackBerry needs. Fortunately, it looks like we won’t have much longer to wait before we see how things actually work out.