RIM announces “BBM Voice” (gives BBM users free voice calling to over Wi-Fi)

Ian Hardy

November 14, 2012 12:23 am


With RIM’s BlackBerry 10 announcement earlier this week – now officially launching on January 30th, 2013 – there seems to be some much needed enthusiasm running through their veins. Today the company has declared that their popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service will be updated to version 7.0 and brings a bunch of new features.

I had a conversation with James Tantram, Senior Product Manager for BBM, and he noted that BlackBerry Messenger now has over 60 million users around the world, with “billions of messages sent each day.” The company will continue to expand BBM as a “social networking experience” and communication tool, but stray from the “real time chat” service to a “real time engagement” model. The reason being is because they’ve noticed that their customers needs have changed. Included in BBM 7 – which is currently available in Beta for BlackBerry smartphones – includes BBM Voice.


BBM Voice gives BlackBerry users the ability to make free voice calls over Wi-Fi within BBM to your BBM contacts, anywhere in the world. Tantram stated that BBM Voice is currently compatible with devices running BlackBerry OS 6 and 7, but there’s also future plans to make it available for those left behind with OS 5. BBM allows users to see if your message has been delivered and read. With BBM Voice it’s taken to another level as you can immediately connect to your contact and see if they’re online and available. An indicator will appear at the top of the display either showing Online, Offline, in a voice chat, or that their device doesn’t support BBM Voice. In addition, users can start a BBM Voice call directly from a BBM chat, plus also have a BBM conversation while in a BBM Voice call.

BBM 7 will also see 16 new emoticons, including a “hang loose” sign, mad, camera icon, lightbulb, sun, rain, thunderstorm, snow, tired and what looks to be dizzy. Also coming in the upgrade is an In App Upgrade Notification that will do just that, notify you when an BBM update is available (works for OS 5, 6, 7 devices). Finally, RIM has also linked your BBM info (display name, picture, contacts, groups) directly to your BBID, thus making it eventually easier to switch/upgrade to BlackBerry 10 without any frustration.

BBM Voice is just another option other than simply BBMing. I can see it being really useful for anyone who wants to save on carrier minutes, especially businesses. However, most Canadian carriers have switched to offer unlimited voice plans. Tantram also noted that the ability to have several BBM Voice contacts on a call at one time, similar to a conference calling, is not yet on the plan but possibly being considered.

This is one step closer to BBM Video. Thorsten Heins, RIM’s CEO, confirmed that BlackBerry 10 will have BBM Video and we should see them officially unveil this on January 30th.

BBM 7 will be available to the masses “before the end of the year,” but if you’re interested to give it a go now you can head on over to the Beta Zone and download BBM version 7 and BBM Voice here

  • Matt

    Wow, I am impressed!

    • Morning Wood

      WHEN will BB10 products be in the STORE.

      Date please.

      Not, “coming soon”, or “you just wait”, WHEN.

      Not BB voice for BB7 legacy phones.

      Looking for an answer.

    • RIMtheRIPPER

      Welcome to 2010 RIM!

      Unfortunately this is not an exclusive app, any $80 phone can use the Skype app (Voice only) or get a $150 with front camera and use VIDEO calls N O W!!

      Message to RIM:
      Scrap your specs sheet; just make a N4 WITH SD CARD, one version without LTE radio and the other one with it; price it $50 and $100 more than the N4 respectively and sell them in good numbers, get some money out of the HARDWARE but get most of your revenue out of the BBM services.
      But this WOULD MAKE SENSE …and RIM doesn’t do that.

      Right now all RIM has is the “80 million users” and the “2 Billion Cash” let’s see the Qreport on Dec 20th, then the December Sales, then the January ones and see where it stands…and there will still be waiting to do!

    • hoo dat

      First and second week of February for major markets, rest of the world 2 weeks after that.

  • rim it up

    RIM is getting it together! wow

  • sp

    Damn…RIM is doing everything in their power to sell me back to BB.

    If this works…I’m sold…

    Great job RIM. I am very excited for 2013.

    *sent from my BlackBerry Playbook*

    • StephenBB81

      This isn’t even for BlackBerry 10!

      This will be for legacy users, BlackBerry 10 users can expect this PLUS video inside of BBM

    • sp

      @StephenBB81 … then thats even hella better for BB10 users!!!

      SWEET!!!!!

  • Brad F(anboy)

    Let’s hope the carriers eventually allow this over cellular.

    It took them long enough to do FaceTime over cellular, so I doubt we’d get this any time soon.

  • Marion

    RIM, you have 5 months to take $600 away from me. Stop with all the teasers and give me my phone!

    • RIMtheRIPPER

      -RIM users are higher end users and don’e like being seen with too old hardware, with the exception of Canada, the rest of the world has a 2yr contract MAX, with the posibility of upgrading after 1.5 yrs now…meaning that this Holidays 98% of RIM customers are elegible for hardware upgrade starting in in December, then Jan and then February!

      My guess is that not that many of those 80 Million (Unaudited -RIM numbers) will be able to resist the deals in December.
      -When January comes expect huge price drops of top tier phones that tried to sell at full price ($500-600), in Januarey they will adjust to compete with the N4.

      IF the phone ever comes out it will have to come at less than $500.

    • sp

      @Marion ha ha ha same.. i feel the same way. my wallet is already open and credit card freshly ready to buy this phone!!

      COME ON RIM!!!!!

    • som

      I’ve cancelled some of my monthly memberships, going back to Ramen noodle once or twice a week.

      RIM, take money and give me this damn thing already.

    • bb

      RIM THE RIPPER you are talking like a 15 year old consumer. Business don’t base things on deals in December. Consumers worry about price, businesses by good quality and security. Most of your comments are kind of weak. If you have any other valuable comments let me know.

    • phreezerburn

      Yeah BB’s existing customers won’t be able to keep their hands off of the N4′s features, already seen in 3/4 of an S3, because Christmas is near… idiocy. Those who have decided to wait for the BB10 will do just that and those who can afford to play musical phones won’t hesitate to take either out for a spin.

  • Ronl

    RIM is dead they said, there will be worth nothing by now they said.

  • John

    I wouldn’t mind going for bb10, if it’s comparable to my iPhone5. I might have to give up a little, but if it is 90% I can switch.

    • phreezerburn

      Two of my daughters and my wife are iFans playing with the new phone. I was convinced that it was going to be a Nokia 920 to replace my 800 and still keeping the Note II for business but now it could be a sweep for the BB10 all-touch and for my business mates it’s the key-me version.

  • Ronll

    This is only thetip of the Ice Burg, just Wait till BB10Comes out.

    Count me in,I’ll be Pre-Ordering Mine

  • Aiden

    Whoa!!!! THis is huge for RIM. COngrats

  • aliwhatsit

    and why the f*ck is this allowed in canada while google voice is not?

  • Threecube

    Can I has a Blackberry without a data plan please?

  • lukeiphone

    Damn this is next level. They better patent this because ios7 will have voice calls over iMessage.

    • Brad F(anboy)

      We call it VoiceTime and it’s the most innovative, buzzword-filled blah blah blah.

    • KM

      You can already FaceTime straight from an iMessage chat. The nice thing about BBM Voice is they’re giving it to older handsets.

  • Armchair Investor

    Yawn. Zello (and 100 other PTT apps) have been doing this for a long time. Plus they work over cellular, and allow cross platform communication.

    How exactly is this “the next level”? Maybe the next level of proprietary failure. What is there to patent here when other apps have done this already?

    BBM video? Really? Don’t even get me started on that. It better be Skype compatible, or what’s the point.

  • deistbeats

    Wait … did the that say to anywhere in the world ….? Nice. Seeing as almost everyone has WiFi at home that’s pretty cool.

  • mattprime86

    The future; its here!

  • gurtej08

    Allowing you to call internationally to your BBM friends is the feature I am looking forward to. Most carriers charge a fee to call internationally or make you opt into a package. This will help save consumers money since most people already opt into data plans.

  • alex

    HMmmmm… not innovative but I was not expecting this and I am surprised.

    • skullan

      Maybe not new, but certainly an innovation where BB is concerned.

  • Imrightyourewrong

    LOL. Skype and tons of other apps destroy the functionality of this. BBM now adds voice calling *only* over Wi-Fi and RIM fans are calling this next level? Pathetic. Welcome to the 21st century RIM fans, where for years competitor phones have had voice calling over Wifi and cellular data, even on old ancient phones like Symbian Nokias.

    • RealDeal

      Dude, the BB platform has had VOIP calling for years as well, just not natively. Do you even know what BlackBerry MVS even is? It has had VOIP over Wifi for over 3 years. Plus apps like Tringme have been around for 3-4 years.

    • Imrightyourewrong

      Realdeal, you’re the wrong deal.

      Blackberry MVS, get out of here with your nonsense. That’s for BUSINESSES. Can consumers easily use MVS out of the box? Of course not! That’s like saying Blackberry BES features are great for consumers, but BES is ONLY for businesses that have a setup for BES.

      Yes BB has had TringMe, which makes the posts here from all the BB shills and carrier employees about how amazing this is even more ludicrous!

      Ancient platforms like Symbian have had VOIP calling for over 5 years!

  • Rob

    I agree with John- I’m willing to make the switch if I can get 90% of what I get with my iP5.

    Gotta support the home team!

  • Mike

    I like my BB Bold but it’s full of app’s and most BB do not have enough ram inside.
    Rim will be first at the finish line when BB10 is launched.

  • SAM

    OOHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • tommy

    Google’s Gtalk can already do this but with Video. I don’t see what everybody is so excited about.

  • kad

    connect bbm voice/video with skype !

    or open bbm to anyone and go for skype… if they won’t develop for BB then attack it! you are 60 million strong already !

  • oldschool

    Too bad RIM has to announce this stuff to generate buzz, by the time they launch, Apple will have stolen it and re-branded it as iSomething.

    • GONINSANE

      Haha iTalk, I can totally see that happening.

  • jussayin

    …”60 million users”

    Most of them in middle east and third world countries .

    • hoo dat

      Your comment just goes to prove exactly how little business acumen you have.

  • TP

    Google Talk allows you to:
    1. Voice-call over WiFi AND mobile data
    between any Android phone/tablet, iOS (There are apps like VTok), Mac, Windows PC

    2. Video-call over WiFi AND mobile data
    between any Nexus phone/tablet (and some other Androids AFAIK), iOS, Mac, Windows PC

  • haxor99

    Why only over wifi??

    • Porilaisten

      The current BB devices wouldn’t be able to support it over 3G/4G. The current OS and lack of bandwidth support would be a problem. I can see it being over 4G including video when BB10 is released.

    • 2dfx

      @Porilaisten *MOST* OS7 devices have 14Mbit modems in them which should be PLENTY to support BBM Voice. Hell, even devices with 7.2Mbit modems should be able to support this no sweat.

      I believe it has to do with having the carriers onboard, which in Canada may not fly since it would rob the big3 of their ability to charge for LD/Intl calling.

  • fanberry10

    Fantastic RIM!!…I’m there!

  • redBB

    Does this mean that skype isn’t coming to the BB10 platform. its just very similar to skype other than its not really crossplatform.

    • haxor99

      Except skype will work over mobile data connection

  • hoo dat

    Skype security? You’re kidding, right?? LMFAO!

  • ExcessDan

    Skype? Android has been doing this for years with the built in Google Talk. Voice or video over wifi or mobile and you can chat with people on a pc as well.

  • hoo dat

    I have to be honest, I stopped when I got to the Skype security comment, it was hilarious! I just re-read your entire comment and just as I was starting to believe I had already read the most ridiculous comment I was likely to read today, along came your “WP8 is phenominally successful” and I can only come to the conclusion you forgot to take your meds this morning!

    Hilarious!

  • skazzers

    Google talk and Skype already do this over Wifi. Google talk is integrated well into Android too. How is this innovative?

    • som

      It’s innovative to Blackberry Messenger.
      And it’s Wi-fi only because some of us can’t afford unlimited data so it has to be used over wi-fi.

      I know it’s not innovative but it’s innovative to BBM.

  • Joe Jim Bob the third

    People keep mentioning Skype like it matters. Skype was just found handing over client Data to government agencies without a warrant or probable cause. You think it might be good idea for RIM to develop their own programs, considering how much importance they have been putting on security? Instead of relying on outside groups that can’t be trusted?

    You people bad mouthing this because of “skype”, either have no idea what is going on in the world or you are shills.

  • gramz

    honesty i miss bbm and im goin back sell my iphone and come back

  • Larry

    As skazzers says, we’ve been doing this for years with Google Talk and Skype. So other than being new to BB, how is this a big deal? I can use Skype over WiFi and mobile connection to call people on Skype as well as to cell phones and landlines. I can even do video and conference calls internationally, which I do often.

  • ile2010

    I’ve used Dell Voice for a while (on both Android and iOS), and it’s great. It’s free, and gives you an incoming number and voicemail.

    It works on mobile networks. That’s the most important thing. There’s a BB version as well. A version for Windows Phone 8 is in the works.

    Why would anyone consider BBM Voice to be a killer app is beyond me.

  • Brad F(anboy)

    Rim is copying Apple again to stay alive. What’s next? A map program with a data merge problem?

  • JV

    Android has this, I use google voice to message and do video with anyone else with a cam phone for free over wifi, or data. Its not that big a deal. I happy they have this feature, and im sure BB10 will have (hopefully) an even more extensive and awesome system setup. but this is really them playing catch up. They don need to patent it, someone already came up wit it a long time ago. and even if google didnt have this app, people can still skype and video skype for free from phone tp phone. and that can be any phone with skype IOS android, and OS that has the skype app. so really…. not a huge breakthrough here.
    lol

    but i do miss and love BBM :)

  • JV

    lol Joe Jim Bob the third is real paranoid. lol hahahahaha yeah if the Gov want to take data from my video conversation they can have it. LOL hahahahahahaa Yeah have fun with that precious information. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!

  • Ryan

    The BB10 devices better have some killer specs, at the very least it should best the Nexus 4. I doubt they will be selling it for $299 so it better have revolutionary specs. Knowing RIM, this will launch with a dual core CPU and 512 mb of ram or some bullshit.

  • bb

    that is pretty funny….he/she open their mouth and removes all doubt. Easy to tell you just don’t like blackberry. You should probably go to use your surface tablet and play on your skype, since your day is so open and free to do what you please.

  • Joe Jim Bob the third

    @JV

    It has nothing to do with paranoia, and everything to do with security. Corporations will not use tools to do business if there is serious security concerns around who has access to the data. That simple. This isn’t about average consumers(although I do find it sad you place so little importance on your own privacy, but that’s your own god damn business). Skype passed over user data illegally to to the US government without a warrant. That is bad. You believe things which are incredibly stupid if you can’t see why this is bad. You know naught of which you speak, and the things you do speak are childish and ignorant.

    Nice way to try and dismiss valid critic and concerns, by trying to lable someone a concpiracy nut.

  • Jeremy

    Ridiculous. Skype security is just as verifiable as RIM security. They both get unencrypted by the host company and resent. Both have been in the news for this, even.

    If you can’t see the code, you can’t trust what it’s doing.

  • Enzo

    This is SIICK! I think a strategic move 6 months down the line from the BB10 release will be to release video chat and conference calling. BB will be back ! :)

  • techie01

    Wifi Calling LOL didn’t Rogers introduced that like 6 years ago on the old 8100 pearl. are these RIM Executives have a CEO flash back on retro phones.

  • Mike

    Don’t get the beta version >.> The notification sounds wont play, 3rd party emotions wont work.
    I don’t know what else doesn’t work, because I switched out..I need to know when people bbm me.

    On that note I would like to know if I can use bbm voice with people outside the country, like msn chat and all those other programs. If we are able to do that, I can see blackberry getting some serious numbers back…

  • Jeff Rucchin

    love rim new voice bought stock today think with 80 million subscribers rim bb10 will rock hold on to your hats rim is bacck in a big way