The following opinion piece is a guest contribution by ex-BlackBerry addict and my good friend Yousif Abdullah.
You can connect him @YousifAbdullah
Hello BBin community and greetings from Finland! My name is Yousif and this article has been long in the making.
I left the BlackBerry scene in late 2011. Some of you may know me from my contributions to CrackBerry.com at the time, others may recognize me from my rants on my personal Twitter account (@yousifabdullah). And although I haven’t accomplished much since I made the decision to leave the BlackBerry community, this particular article has to be the craziest thing I’ve done in some time.
Allow me to go a few years back
It was on the day I received my BlackBerry PlayBook. I had participated in the BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet Offer that rewarded app developers with a free tablet upon submitting a qualifying app to BlackBerry App World (now BlackBerry World). I was very happy when I held my BlackBerry PlayBook for the first time and I felt that all the hard work I put into it had truly paid off. At the time, it felt as if I held the future in my hands. In fact, the sole reason I started learning Adobe ActionScript and developed an app for the platform was not because I’d get a free tablet, but because the tablet ran on QNX, which would later become the foundation of a completely new BlackBerry platform, BlackBerry 10.
The thing about QNX that made it particularly interesting to me was that it doesn’t require a special data connection such as BIS on legacy BlackBerry devices. As I live in Finland, the home country of Nokia, access to BlackBerry services still is and has been nonexistent. For that reason, my expectations for the BlackBerry PlayBook were high and I was quite optimistic about it as well as QNX in general when I wrote my article on proprietary and open source software for CrackBerry.com (In a world of proprietary and open source software, where does BlackBerry fit? / http://crackberry.com/world-
My optimism didn’t last
As I was hoping to finally chat with my BlackBerry friends around the world via BBM on my new tablet, BlackBerry (RIM) made a decision that would ultimately cut the bond that I had with the platform and the company. That decision was to make BBM on the BlackBerry PlayBook available only through BlackBerry Bridge, requiring a connection to a BlackBerry handset that would handle incoming and outgoing data through BIS and communicate it back to the tablet, even though the BlackBerry PlayBook didn’t require BIS on its own. As such a connection was not an option, it was the first strike for me.
I didn’t give up on hope just yet, as I kept a good outlook for things to come. But the future for the BlackBerry PlayBook looked bleak and the Internet was already busy talking about the possible discontinuation of the tablet. Strike two.
Still not giving up, I decided to get in touch with BlackBerry itself. This lead to a short Twitter discussion between Alec Saunders, VP of Developer Relations at BlackBerry, and I. Strikeout.
Moving forward with my life
When I came to the point of choosing something other than BlackBerry for my communication needs, I kept wishing inside that BlackBerry would make it in the future. However, my words didn’t reflect this, my Tweets didn’t reflect this, nothing about me reflected that I was still into all that is BlackBerry. In fact, I started becoming a very outspoken ex-BlackBerry addict and was quick to point out even the smallest of flaws present in the BlackBerry platform, all because I was so frustrated with BlackBerry’s intention to keep focusing on BIS.
It was around this time in 2011 when I personally made the decision that completely changed my life: I bought an iPhone. A year later, I bought an iPad. Now, I bought an Apple TV. I had become a part of an ecosystem, something I had wished BlackBerry would evolve into one day. But as I’m writing this on my new iPad Air, I’m once more questioning the very existence of BlackBerry. Yet, something changed my mind recently. It was something I didn’t expect to affect me this much. Something that I had been waiting for all this time, ever since I first introduced myself to the world of BlackBerry back in 2008.
That something I had been waiting for was BBM
Despite the delayed launch, this year marked the arrival of BBM on iPhone and Android, making my most coveted BlackBerry application finally available at my disposal. That one app that I could never use on a BlackBerry due to the BIS requirement. And I had quite a few BlackBerry devices! Off the top of my head: the 8700c, Pearl 8110, Curve 8900, Storm2 9520, Curve 8520, Torch 9800, Bold 9650, Bold 9900. In that order, I think. But I digress…
I downloaded the app on my iPhone, created a BlackBerry ID, and added some of my Twitter friends on BBM. The app seemed OK with a few hiccups here and there, but mostly it worked. Best of all, I even made new friends on BBM. And whatever it was about the app, it was enough to make me remove WhatsApp from my iPhone. I didn’t realize what it was until I bought my 11-year-old sister an iPhone 5c in yellow. (Don’t look at me, it was her choice!)
What was it about BBM? Why BBM?
It’s simple. BBM doesn’t automatically match your contacts. BBM doesn’t exploit your privacy and upload information on the people you know to a foreign cloud. WhatsApp does that. Kik does that. Viber does that. In fact, most instant messaging apps do so, including Apple’s iMessage. However, what separates iMessage from the rest is that I have already made the conscious decision that I trust Apple with my personal data when I bought my iPhone. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have an iPhone. I certainly don’t trust WhatsApp as much.
With my younger sister now up and ready on BBM, it was easy to convince her friends with the various Samsung and iPhone devices to join the fun: inviting friends by QR code is intuitive and adds a layer of intimacy to the mix. In fact, I personally like BBM so much because I only have my closest friends on BBM. (Just because you have my number doesn’t mean you get to chat with me on BBM!) And that’s precisely why I like BBM over any other app, in addition to the useful D and R notifications that let me know if a message has been delivered and read.
To assess (something) again, to re-evaluate
Over the past few weeks I have been thinking about the various stages I’ve went through in my life and how BlackBerry has been a strong part of it as I grew up with technology and became interested in mobile. I’ve started thinking of BBM as not an app, but an opportunity. It allows me to break free from the Apple platform and go try something new. Because wherever I end up, as long as I have BBM, I know that my friends will always be with me. That’s how I feel about BBM nowadays. It’s a feeling no other app has so far brought up in me.
“In fact, it makes me want to go back home to BlackBerry.”
Whatever happens to BlackBerry, all I know is that they have a great app. After all the years I’ve been waiting, it all comes down to this one app. And I’m happy to have been given the chance to try it out. Going forward, a lot is going to happen in the mobile world and for the first time since 2008, I’m again feeling the energy and passion towards BlackBerry as I did when I first started out. In fact, it makes me want to go back home to BlackBerry. To catch up with times and see what BlackBerry 10 is all about. To have a physical QWERTY keyboard under my thumbs again and relive the great times I had before.
And as I look at my iPhone, I’m looking at a device that allows me to BBM. It has become the app that I keep checking throughout the day, right before I head to sleep, and just as I wake up in the morning. It’s addictive. No other app on my iPhone has ever reached that level of engagement on my part and I think that’s telling of the quality of BBM. I don’t mean to say it’s perfect because there are many things wrong with it. So, what’s wrong with BBM?
Small things that can be fixed with updates.