A bunch of us got the news today. A new Beta version of BBM in the Zone! That in itself is hardly new, but one of the features was, well “odd” at first glance. Extended Contacts?
And then we thought about it. Read on for a taste, and an opinion of this new service.
This new feature is being billed as “Extended Contacts”, and here is the blurb from BlackBerry:
Chat with people outside of your BBM Contacts! Chatting with new friends is even easier. This new version of BBM allows you to send and receive messages with email contacts in your address book that are not yet BBM contacts. You’re always in control – these “extended” contacts won’t be able to see your profile picture or status updates until you add them as a BBM contact – which can be done easily with the push of a button.
At first I didn’t get it. Why would I want to BBM chat with someone who was not already a BBM contact?
So, my friend Rob and I decided to experience it, and see how it could apply to our lives. Both parties need the same revision/beta of BBM to try this out at this time.
The requirement for both parties is a contact with an email address, so we both quickly checked that we had each other setup properly contact wise. Then, we deleted each other as BBM contacts.
Well, I was surprised to see the results indeed!
The “R” and “D” for read receipt work like a champ. Emoticons/smilies work as expected, and you can see when someone is “writing a message”! It’s so native you’d wonder what the difference was! It’s as simple as going to your contacts from within BBM and starting the chat.
On top of that, even stickers work!
You’ll notice three things at the top of the pictures. They are the video camera icon, and the “Block” and “Add BBM Contact” buttons.
The video cam icon gives you a message that you need to be a fully fledged BBM contact to do BBM Voice or BBM Video. The “Block” button does what it says. It denies a contact from messaging you in this way. The “Add BBM Contact” button also does what it says. It is the escalation to being a BBM contact with all the features that entails (IM/Voice/Video). Video being BlackBerry only at the moment.
So, what’s the point?
I “think” the point revolves around the competition, namely Whatsapp, and security.
As we all know, sadly Whatsapp is based on telephone numbers. If you’ve signed up for Whatsapp, your phone number is shared with everybody forever. To me, that is a negative in both my business and personal life and I refuse to subscribe to it.
In this new “Extended Contacts” scenario, we are dealing with an email address. We can expose those, or not, and change them. BBM users can “Block” users at will. BBM users can escalate an extended contact to be a full fledged BBM contact at will.
So I see two tiers of contacts. Those fully fledged BBM contacts that can see my presence message, what I’m listening to (if enabled), can BBM Voice and BBM Video, and those that I can keep as contacts with better options like emoji and sticker support but for argument’s sake be at an arm’s length, but still close.
Whatsapp is all or nothing, exposing your phone number to everybody, and is cross platform.
BBM is flexible, secure, customisable, doesn’t require you to expose your phone number, has voice and video calling, and is cross platform.
BBM contacts for business? For close family and friends? Yes!
BBM Extended Contacts for all the rest? A BIG yes!
I love it!