Looking Back on 2016, a Breakout Year for BBM

This year has been a pivotal one for us at BBM. We transitioned out of BlackBerry, and we’ve accelerated our work creating a mobile ecosystem within BBM via dozens of improvements, plus new features and services. We’ve also refocused our efforts on our mobile-first markets.

Transitioning out of BlackBerry

By far the biggest change of the year for us has been our transition out of BlackBerry. The new BBM is its own entity, a subsidiary of Emtek, Indonesia’s leading digital media content company.

For the last few years, our BBM team has watched mobile messaging surge in popularity worldwide, with no sign of slowing down. As more of the global population gets mobile devices (forecast to reach 4.6 billion by the end of this year), and arrives online for the first time, social messaging apps are among the first places they go.

Knowing this, we’ve been making big plans for BBM, the world’s first instant, cross-carrier, mobile messaging app. We’ve taken it cross-platform to grow the network, and added all kinds of new content and features by opening our application programming interfaces (APIs) and launching the Discover menu.

At the same time, we’ve been looking for the right partner to help us grow faster so we can turn BBM into the most useful app on your smartphone. Emtek is that partner, and we’re less than 6 months into this long-term business relationship.

Over the last 3 months, we’ve been setting up new offices in Ottawa, Mississauga, and Kitchener (Canada) so that we can work closely with BlackBerry, as well as in Singapore and Jakarta. We also have teams in South Africa, UAE, and UK. Additionally, we’re busy hiring talented people who will help us reach our next set of milestones.

Accelerating the mobile ecosystem

This year has also been a busy one for us in terms of expanding and improving BBM in a number of areas.


We’ve added a number of new ways to pay, including the Pingit mobile payment app for UK customers, and the Quickteller Mini mobile app for Nigerians.

Our new BBM Checkout now powers a number of new services for Indonesians, including no-fee Pulsa airtime top-up, bill pay, money transfer, vouchers, shopping and travel on the Discover menu. Through BBM Checkout, you can pay with a credit card, bank transfer and soon with multiple mobile wallets.

And we’re not done yet! We have more planned for early next year. Stay tuned!


Last summer, we added the new Discover menu, where you can always find new services and content. Depending on where you live, you’ll see some of all of the following:


We continue to build out our collection of stickers for you to use in your chats, partly through local contests in Colombia, Indonesia, UAE and Nigeria.

Through the BBM Life channel, we’re partnering with the biggest bloggers and content providers in Indonesia to bring you great information about travel, food and gaming, as well as entertainment, humor and news. Similarly, horoscope channel BBM Stars features daily news for your zodiac sign from the astrology bloggers behind Vemale.com.


Over the summer, we rolled out BBM Video Call, our cross-platform video chat. This feature gives iPhone and Android users the ability to video-call each other over BBM (something BlackBerry 10 users were already able to do).

In April, we started giving away our message retraction feature for free (previously only available through a subscription). It lets you “take back” text, stickers, files and other content you mistakenly (or regrettably) send via chat.

Our August release made improvements to multi-person and group chats. Our October release added the ability to share photos to your feed, and see video posts from Channel owners.

For people on iOS and Android devices, we also made several other improvements for controlling incoming chat notifications, sharing photos and hiding message previews.

In our December release, we added two-factor authentication and upped the message length limit to over 24,000 characters, among other improvements, plus added a suite of tools for our BBM Discover partners.


Last but not least, iOS and Android users can now create a new BBM account using their mobile number instead of an email address. A top-requested feature for a while, this new option speeds up the process for signing up, resetting forgotten passwords, and finding friends to chat with. In our January 2017 release, we will extend this to existing users.

Focusing on mobile-first markets

You’ll notice that many of the features listed above are for Indonesia or Nigeria only at the moment. We’ve done that because these are two of our biggest markets worldwide. They’re both also “mobile-first” markets, meaning that more people there access the internet from their mobile devices than from desktop computers, and that many people are coming online for the first time via their mobile devices. (We will be extending these services to other key mobile-first markets early in 2017.)

Mobile technology isn’t just changing these markets. It’s increasingly the way we connect to the Internet. In fact, I just saw that October 2016 was the first month during which people viewed more websites on mobile devices than on desktop computers.

As BBM is a mobile app, and our largest and most enthusiastic user bases are in mobile-first markets, we’ve made a conscious decision to make them the focus our new feature development. We’ll test lots of new ideas there, and roll them out to our other global markets in succession.

It’s thrilling to revisit this list of all we accomplished this year. We rolled out several major releases that are starting to shape BBM into the thriving mobile ecosystem we’ve been working towards for the last couple of years. Next year promises to be similarly exciting and full of change, with our chatbot API and many other features rolling out in Q1.

It’s been a great year. We’re taking just a moment to appreciate what we’ve done before we roll up our sleeves and get back to work.

Categories: BBM

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