BBM 7 beta is open now, adds Voice feature for free calls over WiFi

RIM's BlackBerry 10 launch isn't scheduled until January 30th, but BBM faithful can try out a new feature on their existing handsets -- voice calling. Brand new for BBM 7 it lets users bypass the text chat their thumbs have been used to and directly talk via the service, as long as they're connected to a WiFi network, no 3G / 4G allowed. That connection restriction takes some of the shine off, but BlackBerry users traveling to / living in far locales with minute-restricted SIM cards or less reliable infrastructure might make the most use of it. Voice allows for direct initiation of calls, switching from text chat to a call, using both in split screen and has an indicator to let users know when their friends are open for a chat. That's not the only BBM 7 upgrade however, as the service is now deeply integrated with one BlackBerry ID, which backs up their profile, groups and contacts for easy switching to a new device. Currently BBM 7 is available in beta for BlackBerry OS 6 or higher smartphones, with support for BlackBerry 5 planned "at a future date." If you're interested, hit the Beta Zone to sign up for access at the link below, or check out the press release after the break for more details.

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BBM Now Lets You Have Voice Chats for Free Over Wi-Fi

November 13, 2012

WATERLOO, ON – For the times when you want to hear a friend's laughter instead of reading LOL, BlackBerry® Messenger (BBM™) is taking the social networking experience to a whole new level with an exciting new feature called BBM Voice. Research In Motion (RIM) (NASDAQ: RIMM; TSX: RIM) today announced BBM version 7, a free update for the globally popular mobile social network, which will allow customers to make free voice calls to other BBM customers around the world over a Wi-Fi® connection*.

BBM is a fast, convenient and inexpensive service for BlackBerry® customers that gives them the ability to instantly chat with a friend, family member or colleague, and know when their message has been delivered, and read. With the new version of BBM, customers have a new option – they can talk with their BBM contact across the globe for free over a Wi-Fi connection. In an instant, customers can switch between texting and talking, or talk and text at the same time. For consumers, especially in developing markets, the BBM Voice feature offers an attractive way to talk with friends and family near and far, and staying in contact will be easier than ever as the holiday season approaches. For business customers, BBM Voice allows for enriched collaboration.

"BBM is the quick, easy way to stay connected to the people that matter to you, and with today's announcement we're expanding the capabilities of the service for deeper social engagement and even greater collaboration, beginning with voice functionality," said T.A. McCann, Vice President of BBM and Social Communities at RIM. "The new BBM Voice feature is for when you're travelling and you want to call home without worrying about phone charges. It's for when you have news you can't wait to share, for quickly explaining complicated details, and collaborating with colleagues. Whenever your ideas are too big for text, there's BBM Voice."

BBM Voice includes a number of convenient features.

Customers can initiate a BBM Voice call directly, or instantly switch from a BBM text chat to talk, and back again.
The split-screen feature allows customers to talk and text at the same time, so for example, they can send a picture to their contact while talking with them. They can also check other BBM text chats, check email, or navigate to other apps while engaged on a BBM Voice call.
BBM provides a visual indicator that shows when contacts are available for a voice call.
BBM Voice is compatible with any accessories a customer has now for making voice calls on their BlackBerry smartphone, such as a Bluetooth® or wired headset. Customers can also use BBM Voice over their BlackBerry smartphone's speakerphone.
If it's not an ideal time to talk, customers can simply choose to respond by texting back.
Another important feature of BBM version 7 is its integration with a customer's BlackBerry ID, which is designed to back up their BBM profile, groups and contacts so they can automatically be restored in the event they switch to a new BlackBerry smartphone, including to a BlackBerry® 10 device.

BBM version 7 with the new BBM Voice feature is currently available in Beta for BlackBerry smartphones running the BlackBerry® 6 OS or higher with support planned for smartphones running the BlackBerry 5 OS at a future date. The Beta can be downloaded for free from BlackBerry Beta Zone**. Customers can sign up to BlackBerry Beta Zone for free at www.BlackBerry.com/betazone.

For more information about BBM, please visit www.blackberry.com/bbm.

* BBM requires a BlackBerry service plan. The BBM Voice feature requires a Wi-Fi connection with access to the Internet and may not be available in all markets.

** BlackBerry Beta Zone is not available in all markets.

About Research In Motion

Research In Motion (RIM), a global leader in wireless innovation, revolutionized the mobile industry with the introduction of the BlackBerry® solution in 1999. Today, BlackBerry products and services are used by millions of customers around the world to stay connected to the people and content that matter most throughout their day. Founded in 1984 and based in Waterloo, Ontario, RIM operates offices in North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America. RIM is listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market (NASDAQ: RIMM) and the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX: RIM). For more information, visit www.rim.com or www.blackberry.com.