BBM's paid privacy features go free

Retract and Timer no longer require a subscription.

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Nick Summers
April 4th, 2016
In this article: blackberry, gear, services
Pau Barrena/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Pau Barrena/Bloomberg via Getty Images

When BlackBerry phones were popular, so was BBM. The messaging app's dominance has slowly faded, however, as iPhone and Android shipments have soared. BBM is but one choice now in the App Store and Google Play, fighting against popular alternatives like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. To compete, BlackBerry is ripping out two of its premium privacy features and offering them to users for free. The first is Retract, a tool that lets you delete individual messages. Once it's been activated, the chosen text or media will disappear both from your device and the recipient's, leaving no trace it was ever sent in the first place.

The second, Timer, is a Snapchat-style tool for ephemeral messaging. With it, users can set how long their text and photos are visible to the chat's participants. Neither feature is unique or new to BBM -- BlackBerry has offered both since October 2014 -- but for a long time, they were locked behind a paywall. The company launched them as free upgrades but warned they join its paid BBM Subscription after a few months. At the time, this might have made financial sense, but these days it's a difficult sell when the same functionality is available for free in other apps.

To coincide with the reversal, BlackBerry has made a slew of smaller improvements to the app on Android, iOS and BlackBerry 10. These include the ability to forward messages from one chat to another, support for Android 6.0, and improved BBM Voice call quality on Android and iOS. Will these additions return BBM to the top of the messaging app heap? Probably not, but for longtime fans they'll be welcome all the same, and possibly discourage them from switching for a little while longer.

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