BlackBerry’s outlook is improving, but BBM is still falling short

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Somewhat troubled smartphone-maker BlackBerry today released its earnings report for the second quarter of this year, ending in August.

Under the new leadership of Jon Chen, the company seems to have turned over a new leaf. They are still seeing a quarterly net loss – $207 million this time around – but it’s far better compared to the same period last year under Thorsten Heins. Just as Heins was about to be kicked out, BlackBerry announced a quarterly loss of $950 million.

Chen has been on a mission to transform BlackBerry into a software-and-services company, and he seems to have partly managed to achieve that. “The revenue breakdown for the quarter was approximately 46% for hardware, 46% for services and 8% for software and other revenue. During the second quarter, the Company recognized hardware revenue on approximately 2.1 million BlackBerry smartphones,” it said in the earnings release.

On the mobile phone company’s social side, it reported that its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) app has now reached just over 90 million subscribers, up from 85 million in the last quarter. That’s definitely an improvement, but it’s still piffling compared to the other social messaging applications like WeChat and WhatsApp, whose users number in the hundreds of millions.

While BBM was exclusively available for BlackBerry users for years, September last year saw the company open the messaging platform up to Android and iOS users as well. Given the huge number of Android and iOS phones and tablets in consumers’ pockets, surprisingly it only managed to add another 20 million users, for a total of 80 million BBM users.

“BBM has now ended its first week with more than 80 million monthly active users, including over 20 million new users on Android and iPhone devices,” it said at the time.

It is worth noting that BlackBerry counts a user as someone who has used the service at least once in 30 days so the increase doesn’t really mean much, only that 20 million Android and iPhone users had the courtesy to open the app at least once since installing it.

In the annual earnings statement for the second quarter of this year, BlackBerry said that they now have 91 million monthly active BBM users, up from 85 million in the previous quarter. That means between September last year and the end of August this year, it has only managed to entice 11 million additional users into using its platform in 12 months.

That is in stark contrast to the 20 million users it added year ago in the space of a single week.

Compared to the ten biggest social networking sites or applications, BBM lags far behind. Its biggest competitor WhatsApp in April announced that it had over 500 million active users, while Tumblr has 230 million users, Google Plus has 343 million users and Facebook had 1.2 billion users by June this year.

So while BlackBerry appears to be doing better under Jon Chen, BBM still has a way to go before it’s a true competitor in the social messaging space.



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