Born-again BlackBerry: BBM 7 offers free voice calls; Skype-killer?

Research in Motion (RIM) has unveiled BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) version 7, a free update for the globally popular mobile social network, that now allows users to make free voice calls to their BBM contacts across the world.

The key new feature of the update, which will allow customers to make free voice calls to their BBM contacts around the world over a Wi-Fi connection, is an inexpensive way to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues – but is not yet available in the UAE.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on chatting with someone on BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), trying to explain something, and realise it’d be a lot easier to just pick up the phone and talk it out,” BlackBerry’s new Blog Manager Donny Halliwell wrote in a blog post.

“Thankfully, BBM 7 has me covered with BBM Voice. It’s available now in BlackBerry App World for devices running BlackBerry 6 OS and higher with support planned for smartphones running the BlackBerry 5 OS early next year,” he said.

Voila – that is perhaps something that should give RIM the much-needed jolt in customers’ eyes, as should the impending BB10, set for a January 30 launch.

As Danny says in his blog post, “showing is better than telling” – here’s a a video of the first official BBM Voice call on Inside BlackBerry.

Asides from voice calling, BBM 7 contains a host of tweaks and new additions that overall make it a worthwhile download for those who use the platform for chatting and sending files with other BlackBerry users.

As mentioned, voice calls can now be made for free from within BBM via a Wi-Fi connection, with statuses updating to show which of your BBM contacts are on calls and such.

This is going to be a smash hit in Dubai and the rest of the UAE, where a largely expat population is eager to make ‘legal’ international calls on a daily basis in order to be in touch with overseas friends and family.

However, according to a Research In Motion statement to this website: "BBM 7 and BBM Voice services are not yet available for customers in the UAE. Customers should refer to BlackBerry App World for the latest version of an app that is available in their location."

Beyond just plain calling, the BBM voice feature lets you begin a conversation by text and then if you wish, you can switch over to voice call.

You are notified in case your BBM voice contacts are waiting or available to make voice calls. BBM voice calling was kick-started with a beta app last month and received high user ratings.

Satisfied customers responded to surveys positively and said they wished to have BBM voice while travelling. Other features include 16 new emoticons for those who like to express themselves using smilies, easy synchronisation of BBM Contacts and Groups with your BlackBerry ID, meaning that you can switch to a new BlackBerry device (BlackBerry 10, anyone?) with ease.


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