So we put BBM and WhatsApp head-to-head to help you decide which one, if any, comes out ahead.
WhatsApp creates an account based on your phone number. On the one hand, this is helpful since you don’t have to mess around with passwords; when setting up on a new device, it just sends a verification SMS to your number and the app scans for it.
For friends that already have your number in your address book, this works out really well – WhatsApp automatically shows them that you’re on WhatsApp too. On the downside, this also means that you’ve got to give out your phone number when
Adding brand new friends. You’ve also got to pop your SIM card into a new device when switching before you can set up WhatsApp. This can be a hassle if you’re using a secondary phone or SIM temporarily.
BlackBerry Messenger, on the other hand, uses alpha-numeric keys, called pins, and doesn’t require you to input your number at all. Unfortunately, unlike WhatsApp, you’ve got to start building up your BBM contact list from scratch. However, if you’re switching devices, you can back up your contact list to the cloud then remotely restore it on the new device.
It’s important to remember that adding a WhatsApp contact doesn’t just mean you need someone’s phone number; you also need them in your device’s address book. This means that you don’t really get to choose who you want on your WhatsApp contact list – a fact that has been the reason many users have stayed away from the service.
That said, WhatsApp has a full contact blocking mechanism in place, just like BBM. Of course, if that contact has your phone number, harassment over SMS and even voice calling is just a stone’s throw away. But WhatsApp does have way to mark contacts as favorites for easy access, which BBM can’t claim.
In terms of BBM, it’s easy to think that adding contacts might be a hassle with cryptic pins, it’s actually pretty easy between NFC, barcode scanning, and straight-up e-mail invites.
Neither service has a tag system in place for organizing your contacts into, say, work and personal groups, though group chat is present in both – more on that later.
The core of both experiences is text messaging. Both provide typing and delivery receipts, though in slightly different ways.
As you may have heard before, one tick mark next to your message in WhatsApp means the message was delivered to the server, and a second means that it was delivered to the sender – not that they’ve necessarily read it.
Though WhatsApp lets you know at the top when a user was last active, strictly speaking, only BBM has read receipts.
BBM also has a few extras tied in when it comes to messaging. Conversations can be copy pasted elsewhere and e-mailed. Depending on the kinds of conversations you have, these might be features you’d actually prefer to be skipped, but for most folks,it’ll come in handy.
WhatsApp only shares pictures and video files, while BBM allows users to swap any file type. Both platforms can send contacts and location, too. BBM also allows groups of people to share images, but no other file types, unfortunately. On the upside, group pictures on BBM have robust caption, comment, and upvoting mechanisms.
Both BBM and WhatsApp support group chat, but BBM’s offering is decidedly richer.
Both allow sharing of images to a group, but curiously, BBM Groups doesn’t support video, location, or contact sharing. Meanwhile WhatsApp maintains file sharing parity with one-on-one chat. BBM makes up for the discrepancy with shared to-do
lists and events, plus a much more fleshed-out user interface for accessing all that content. Groups on BBM can also host multiple separate conversations, which is great for larger groups.
The real clincher for group chat on BBM is BBM Channels. This allows users to anonymously subscribe to channels which broadcast all sorts of content at them. Direct chat can be enabled between channel owners and followers too, which is
Great for promoting engagement and handling stuff like giveaways or “office hours”.
Channel owners get metrics on traffic and a web interface for publishing updates – perfect for brand owners looking to reach a new demographic. Though Channels won’t be available on Android or iOS versions at launch, they should be arriving shortly thereafter.
Voice and video chat
Both WhatsApp and BBM support the sending of audio snippets recorded directly from the device. WhatsApp certainly wins out in its implementation of voice notes, but that’s trumped pretty quickly by BBM Voice.
The quality of real-time VoIP on BBM is fantastic. Also, despite having a very snappy-looking push-to-talk implementation, voice notes sent cross-platform on WhatsApp were a little on the laggy side.
Though you can share video files back and forth on WhatsApp, there’s no live video chat. Again, BBM wins out with stable video chat, and the newer addition of screen sharing.
Android and iOS users should keep in mind that while setting up BBM is free, in order to have access to these additional features, they will have to pay a small fee.
Emoticons and personalization
BBM comes with 90 core emoticons. WhatsApp blows that out of the water with 189, and, as many users will attest, a conversation that isn’t punctuated by numerous facial expressions is sorely lacking.
BBM also enjoys a few other points of personalization that you won’t find on WhatsApp.
For one, there’s the classic PING action, the give your friends a little nudge when they’re being slow to reply. WhatsApp, however, lets you swap in custom wallpapers for your chat windows, which is a nice touch.
Status and profile
Both BBM and WhatsApp have a profile structure in place that supports custom status messages and profile pictures.BBM wins points for a busy icon option, and optional updates for what music you’re listening to in the native music player. BBM profiles can also be linked to apps, providing practical functions, like updating your status with your latest Foursquare check-in.
WhatsApp has an impressive selection of preset status messages, but that’s about it.
All in all, there isn’t one clear winner here.Assuming the iOS and Android versions keep feature parity, it might be safe to say that BlackBerry Messenger is going to do just fine competing with WhatsApp.
WhatsApp has had the time to polish its user interface, build a strong installed base, and start implementing a mostly-complete feature set, but service is still spotty, and lacking in forward-thinking features.
All of the current features of BBM on BlackBerry like voice, video and screen sharing will be on their way to other platforms in the very near future, so it will make BBM stand even stronger.
So it seems the only real challenge BBM will face is being consistent enough with its service to convince users who are already comfortable with other platforms to give BBM a shot.