(Updated June 15th with European and African availability)
BBM users have been clamoring for video calling (as you reminded me in your comments on my recent BBM: Getting Better All the Time post). We’re thrilled to announce that video calling is almost ready for primetime; we’ve launched it (see right) as a beta feature for Android and iOS, as part of the latest version of BBM. Update your BBM to get it (or if you are in Europe, Africa, Latin America or the Middle East – it should’ve started working for you automatically during the month of June).
Please note we initially limited availability because this is the first time we’re launching BBM Video calling, and we want to monitor performance, gather feedback, and iron out any kinks that may arise before we roll it out globally.
(Note: BlackBerry 10 users already enjoy video calls with other BlackBerry 10 users over BBM.)
The beta video feature is available in U.S. and Canada to Android and iOS users. U.S. and Canadian BBM users now enjoy cross-platform video calling with each other.
On June 1st, (beta) video calling arrived to iOS and Android users in 26 countries in Latin America. They include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Uruguay and Venezuela. If you are in those countries, the video chat feature should just be enabled now – no need to update your BBM software.
We also rolled out video calling capability to users in 17 Middle Eastern countries on June 8th. Among them are Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen, and others.
As in Latin America, the feature should be enabled without you needing to update your BBM software.
Europe and Africa
BBM video debuted in 109 countries, territories and regions in Europe and Africa on June 14th. There’s too many to name here, but chances are good that BBM video is now working where you are.
As above, the feature should be enabled without you needing to update your BBM software.
Note: only video calls within the supported regions can be done today. We plan to launch BBM video calling globally in our July release.
No approval required
There’s no sign-up or approval required to use the feature. When you tap the icon to initiate a call with one of your BBM contacts, BBM will ask whether you want to make a voice call or try a video call with the beta feature (provided your contact is also eligible to participate).
Android: OS 4.4 (KitKat) and higher
iOS: iOS 8 and higher
BBM users are on-trend in their enthusiasm for video calling. A recent Pew Research study shows that in the U.S., the number of adults making video calls from their smartphones rose by double-digits from 33% in 2013 to 47% in 2015.
What’s driving the enthusiasm? Simple: mobile video conferencing is now a reality. Globally, mobile bandwidth is increasing with the rollout of 4G networks, and devices now have the cameras, software and power that make it possible. Sure, there are some scenarios where good, old-fashioned voice is the better solution. But increasingly, video is taking over as our no. 1 communication technology.
Video is the closest thing to being physically present. We know why that’s more important for personal calls—bridging the distance with our loved ones, like helping grandparents see their grandkids grow. In healthcare, doctors are using video calling to collaborate across distances and save lives, like at Hiranandani Hospital in Mumbai.
In business, live video helps people put faces to names, virtually meet job candidates, make decisions in real time, and save tremendously on travel expenses. Even back in 2013, this Redshift Research study sponsored by Polycom revealed 96% of business decision makers thought that video conferencing removed distance barriers, improving productivity among teams spread across different locations. Now that video calling is a regular part of many businesses’ communication tools, anecdotally, we know that’s true.
Better than The Jetsons
It’s fun to look back at the predictions from just a few years ago about video conferencing, like this one. It makes me think of being a kid, seeing video conferencing on The Jetsons and Star Trek, and wondering if it would ever be possible. As futuristic as they were, one thing those shows didn’t predict was mobility. That would have seemed even more far-fetched! But here we are. (Though, The Jetsons are still ahead of us on the “morning mask” idea.)