BBM for Android

We may be impatient users, but it's clear BlackBerry still has some work to do with BBM on Android​

It's hard not to lead off this week without talking about BlackBerry Messenger. BBM was supposed to land on Android on Saturday. Obviously, that didn't happen, and on Saturday night BlackBerry finally publicly explained what was going on.

Servers were crunched under the weight of what the company says was "more than 1.1 million active users in the first 8 hours." Not sure if that included the iPhone version — which did launch as planned on Saturday. But either way, that's doesn't bode well for how things might have gone even if the release had happened on schedule. If we're supposed to take BlackBerry seriously as a services company going forward and not for hardware — the company last week announced a nearly $1 billion loss and layoffs of 4,500 employees — the services will have to be bulletproof to even compete. 

Obviously, they were not.

BBM may be a great service on Android, but the app is pretty lacking.

Then there's the matter of the BBM app itself. Yes, I've seen it. Even used it a tad. I'm still going to need to be persuaded that I actually need BBM as a service, but the app itself just isn't good enough to be something I'd want to use on a daily basis. It just feels heavy and sluggish. And I'm no HOLOYOLO purist, but why reinvent the design and function wheel when you don't have to?

Also, as it stood over the weekend, there was no graceful way to log out of BBM. Now to be fair, there's no conspicuous "Log out" button in Google Hangouts either. (You have to go into the app settings, then the account, and then choose "Sign out.") But I simply don't have faith in the BBM application to want to leave it on all the time — and same goes for the service. 

A lot of folks have (rightfully) asked what the big deal is about BBM. Why we care so much. I still can't really answer the first question, having never been a real part of the CrackBerry Nation. As the publisher of this fine website, though, I can easily answer that there are millions and millions of BlackBerry users still out there — and millions more who have made the jump to Android. It'd be silly to dismiss it outright. In our straw poll last week, more than 63 percent of the nearly 7,900 votes cast said they'd be using BBM.

I'm not sure how to fix the issue of fake apps in Google Play — or if it *should* be fixed.

And then there's the matter of all the fake BBM apps that were in Google Play. This isn't BlackBerry's fault, of course. Anyone can submit just about anything to Google Play, and have it appear in just a couple hours. In fact, even after Saturday's fake app purge, there appeared to be a new crop in Google Play. Not sure if we have Google Play's minders to thank, or a caching thing on my end, but the new crop was gone within an hour of my having mentioned them on Google+.

We had an interesting discussion going on Saturday on Google+ about whether Google needs to actively prevent spam apps like that from even making it to public listing. On one hand, there's the desire for a more quality app store. On the other, there's the desire for an open app store, without the Draconian policies of, say, maybe, I dunno — Apple.

I like open. I like that a schmuck like me can make an app, submit it and see it appear in a public app store just hours later. And I like that all developers are, more or less, on equal footing when it comes to this. Quality apps can get some special treatment, sure, but that's the market at work. It encourages developers to make better apps. On the other hand, I like an app store that's not flooded by fake/spammy/scammy apps. 

There's got to be some middle ground to be had there. Hopefully we'll see Google improve on that.

And, finally — and this is something I tried to point out Saturday in our post on the fake BBM apps — you have to take a little responsibility for what you're downloading. If you got a chance to read any of the "reviews" on those fake BBM apps, well, they were as entertaining as they were sad. Same goes for the app descriptions, which were so packed full of unrelated keywords the search algorithms perhaps had no choice.

Read the app descriptions. Read the reviews. And above all, read the permissions. And if you still need help, just ask. We'll be more than happy to take a look for ya.

A few other things I think I think:

  • Glad to see Focal be released in Google Play. I still think the UI's a little busy — that's customizable, though — but it's great to see some sort of third-party Photosphere capability. I'll be keeping an eye on this one.
  • Can't mention Focal without at least acknowledging the drama with the whole Cyanogen Inc. thing. We're going to focus more on the end product and let others worry about how the sausage is made, I think. 
  • But what's open-source without a little drama, right?
  • I'll try to get down to the bottom of the Nexus 7 LTE/tethering thing this week, but it's another travel week, so we'll see. Check out our latest podcast for the lowdown.
  • (And I'm totally proud of the title on Episode 151, comprising those previous two bullet points.)
  • So we've been promoting the Android Central App via an ad on the Facebook app for a week now. Haven't really seen a spike in installs or anything, but it's been an interesting experiment, and it was relatively easy to do. Facebook's done well with that.
  • Not sure it's really increased installs, though. The banner we put on the sites did far more for that.
  • I'm trying to reconcile my non-work blogging habits. I love Google+, but I think I'm going to make better use of the site my wife and I set up, Nickinson.net. Better to control your own platform, right?
  • I'm back on the Moto X after a couple weeks away. I think I've decided to have hope in a software fix for the camera. Can't come soon enough.

That's it for this week. Another few days of travel, so it'll be a busy one. Let's get to work.