If your weekend was peppered with searches for the BlackBerry Messenger on the App Store and Play Store, then you are not in the minority. Of course, we don’t need to tell you that the app has been delayed on both platforms after a haphazard launch weekend.
There is no definite official reason for the fiasco, and we don’t entirely blame BlackBerry either, because the BBM incident wasn’t down to the fault of one party. Here’s everyone who is to blame for the mess.
For the Canadian company, this weekend’s mess-up is a snafu. Having announced that BBM would be available over the weekend for Android and iOS, BlackBerry started a hype machine. Inevitably, hordes of adware-laden rip-offs started showing up on the Play Store. If you searched for BBM on the Play Store over the weekend or even last Friday, you would have found dozens of fake apps. As is the case with many Android apps, the BBM apk file also leaked, allowing users to install the app on their devices. In our opinion, BlackBerry should have seen this coming and been prepared for it. Instead the company took cover behind the fakes and in a thinly-veiled attempt to apportion the blame on Google, said the leaked apk and the open Play Store policy resulted in the delay.
On iOS, the company rolled out apps to many regions, including India - one iPhone 5 in our office has BBM officially installed. But soon after the app was pulled from the App Store too, without it hitting all countries. While we understand that BlackBerry thought a leaked Android app would harm user experience and cause support nightmares, there was no reason given for the iOS pull out.
All in all, this situation would have been avoided in a big way, if BlackBerry had made an official announcement about the delay and the reasons for it on Saturday itself. Instead, it let things take their course and ended up with an egg on their face. This is just another instance of BlackBerry being slow to react to the smartphone market and this time it could end up costing them dearly. Now that the initial hype has quietened down, we don’t foresee people clamouring to get BBM with the same fervour.
Not soon enough, it would seem
For all the talk about Android’s openness and the freedom it gives amateur and novice developers, the counter-argument of easy entry to adware, malware and fake apps on the Play Store remains true too. It took more than a day after the initial barrage of fake BBM apps for most of them to be thrown out of the Play Store. Even so, they were back a day later under a different title and developer name. Of course, a look at the app details, screenshots and reviews would have thrown red flags all over the place. Even so we can’t help but feel that many gullible users would have succumbed to the temptation of having BBM.
While we don’t want Google to take the Apple route with the Play Store, there have to be some security measures in place for users and for genuine publishers too. Many of the fake BBM apps on the Play Store were published by developers calling themselves ‘BlackBerry’ ‘Blackberry’ ‘Blackberry INC’, ‘BBM Ltd’, ‘BlackBerry Messenger Limited’ and so on. The developers kept changing the names as and when one or more of these fake apps were clamped down.
Google should have a mechanism in place to make sure that official trademarks and company names cannot be used by frauds to publish fake apps. A screening process exists for Google+ pages to make sure not just anyone can start a page for a website or a company. So it makes sense to have it for the Play Store as well, which clearly is more widespread and has more users than the Google social network.
A slew of fake apps turned up on launch day (Image credit: The Droid Guy)
Unfortunately a part of the blame lies on us, the users. That’s especially if you fell for any of the fake apps out there. Any malware or adware-ridden app will only be effective if you install it. And it doesn’t take much time to verify whether an app is genuine. Start with the screenshots. The screenshots of the many fake BBM apps were more or less the same, that’s because they are from BlackBerry’s user manual for BBM on the Z10. Secondly, see the reviews. If the bulk of them are crying ‘Fake’, then stay away from the app. Nobody wants to screw up their phone by playing brave. Thirdly, see the developer’s past apps. BlackBerry already has three apps on the Play Store to enable secure work spaces and manage BES on Android. Chances are the company will use the same developer license to publish BBM too.
Feels lonely on iOS at the moment
It would be in BlackBerry’s best interests to roll out the app this week itself and have it up and running on devices. That would be the most fitting response to the company’s critics. Needless to say, this incident has added to the bad publicity roll that the company has been on. As BlackBerry enters a period of transition after opening up the possibility of sale, this latest mishap wouldn’t have endeared any new investors. It’s about time the company listens to its own ‘Action Starts Here’ mantra.