BlackBerry Q5 unveiled, BBM coming to iOS and Android
May 14, 2013 // 6:08 p.m.
BlackBerry has unveiled a new low-cost handset and revealed that its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service will be made available on rival platforms.
The new phone is a relatively modest physical keyboard-toting addition to the BlackBerry 10 lineup, joining the more premium Q10 and full-touchscreen Z10.
However, it's the news that BBM is coming to rival mobile platforms that has really caught people's attention.
Up until now BlackBerry only offered BBM on its own handsets, but from "the summer" the company will make apps for the service available on Android and iOS.
Blackberry chief executive Thorsten Heins revealed the surprise at the company's annual developer conference, BlackBerry Live, in Orlando Florida. Here he also introduced Channels, a new BBM feature that - akin to Twitter - allows users to follow celebrities, companies or organisations to receive news or status updates.
BBM started out as a simple instant messaging service, offering a free alternative to SMS - still one of the primary reasons for its popularity. Since then it has added group facilities as well as the ability to share music and pictures and even make calls, having the data routed over the internet rather than cellular networks.
The news of BBM coming to Android and iOS could be seen as a sign of things to come; if the company continues to struggle on the hardware front it could move to providing software services. However, currently it will be seen as a major threat to existing messaging apps such as Whatsapp, given BlackBerry claims BBM has 60 million active users exchanging 10 billion messages a day.
It could be that BlackBerry has made the move too late as the likes of Whatsapp and Apple's own iMessage service have already caught on. However, analysts also point to this being a potential win for BlackBerry in the corporate market where the cross compatibility could woo back customers.
The BlackBerry Q5 is being aimed at emerging markets, with confirmed availability in "selected markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia (including the Asia Pacific region), and Latin America."
Its features list is quite strong for a budget model, though, featuring a 720p 3.1in touchscreen, 5MP camera, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 2GB RAM, a 2,100mAH battery and a full QWERTY physical keyboard. It will, however, only have 8GB of storage.
Available in a range of bold colours, the BlackBerry Q5 will be available "beginning in July."