Where’s my iPhone BBM?

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Blackberry has one killer application and it isn’t email which others can replicate easily. In North America, you can get a lifetime mobile email appliance the Peek Pronto for a one-time payment of $299; as a technology email has become almost as democratised as SMS on mobile devices. Those phones that don’t have it are likely to gain it soon as mobile technology becomes ever better value for money, the only thing holding it back as with most telecoms services is the relatively high cost of usage vis-à-vis local incomes.

Social communications services like Twitter, Facebook and Mixi, which form a central part of the communications mix for young people globally, are platform-agnostic by design or happy accident as private developers built suitable mobile clients. However, these social services are a double-edged sword, in the words of Marko Ahtisaari, senior vice president of design and user experience at Nokia:

This is an area where you need to ace the balance been privacy, trust and publicness.

… The industrial logic of every single social network is that those terms of service will be renegotiated very quickly.

This needs to be balanced against the audience’s need for privacy. Originally social networks not only acted as a ‘social campfire‘: a modern-day ritual reinforcing social cohesion, but also as a private space allowing them to find themselves – an important part of growing up. Since social networks have become increasingly mainstream they are no longer private from their elders.

Young people are starting to become aware of this, they want to govern the privacy of their content on a granular and nuanced way.  Using services on a contextual way: different relationships and personas (professional, familial, personal) on different services with different access and discoverability profiles (Google-able, private) provides a way of achieving this.

BBM or Blackberry Messaging maybe an interesting solution for young consumers now. Like an SMS communication is usually between two devices, however it also has dedicated discussions, which allow multiple BlackBerry devices to communicate in a single session. It allows almost as much creativity as your Facebook wall with emoticons and picture exchange.

The structure of BBM provides consumers with the kind of granular control over their content and profile on the go.

A final benefit of BBM is the transitory nature of the consumer’s ID. Your BBM ID is a Blackberry PIN; a device-specific eight digital hexadecimal number (kind of like the IMEI number for your mobile phone). So each time you go through an update cycle on your device you can change your connections by choosing to withhold your new number from current members of your BBM community.

Contrast this with Facebook or Twitter which is generally forever. Whilst the Apple Macintosh platform enjoys its own messaging platform based on the AIM network, Apple has not come up with an equivalent of the BBM yet. I think that this is a risky omission. Whilst Apple has an excellent user experience, a poor user experience hasn’t affected the breakout and continued popularity of Facebook.

So Apple, where’s my iPhone BBM?