BlackBerry has released a new version of its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) application, extending the Voice and Channels features to Android and iPhone users as well as those with BlackBerry's own devices.
Available to download now from the respective mobile app stores for each platform, the new BBM is identified as BBM 2.0 for iOS, BBM v.10.3 for BlackBerry 10 and just BBM on Android, with the release dated 13 February 2014.
The new version adds a number of new features, including simple file and photo sharing, location sharing, over 100 new emoticons and Dropbox integration, BlackBerry said.
However, the major new features are cross-platform implementation of Voice support and BlackBerry's Channels social networking feature.
BBM Voice enables users to make free voice calls to any other BBM contact over a WiFi or mobile data connection. A green icon in the top right-hand corner of the chat screen indicates when a BBM contact is available for a BBM Voice call, BlackBerry said. Touching the green icon then connects the call.
BBM Channels was announced at the BlackBerry Live event last year, and made available as a beta for BlackBerry users only later in 2013. Now available across all platforms, it enables users to chat with other BBM users about topics that interest them via specific channels.
Channels can be created by brands, businesses or individual BBM users, and are slated as a great way to communicate directly and immediately with people who share common interests, BlackBerry said.
Channels are owned by whoever creates them, enabling them to control the conversation, allowing subscribers to comment on posts freely or to get approval before they can comment, for example.
Of the other new features, Dropbox integration enables users to send a file from their Dropbox account directly to a BBM contact. Files received can be downloaded to the smartphone or uploaded to the user's Dropbox account.
Location sharing allows users to share their real-time location with one or more BBM contacts for a specified amount of time. With privacy concerns in mind, BlackBerry said that this feature puts control firmly in the users' hands, allowing them to specify how long they want to share their location for by setting a timer.
BBM will also be updated for users of BlackBerry's older platforms (BlackBerry OS 5 and above), but these users will not get access to location sharing or Dropbox integration, BlackBerry said.
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