BlackBerry Messaging service is hot

Written by Abhishek Puri | Updated: Sep 13 2013, 02:30am hrs
BusinessBlackBerry?s popular messaging service is widely reputed for its uptime and reliability. Reuters
Ex-Yahoo veterans launched WhatsApp, the cross-platform mobile messaging app for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia. It rapidly grew into prominence because it was free and the network effect with word of mouth publicity ensured that most of the people installed it on their phones. It is based on customised version of the XMPP protocol and uses phone number or IMEI as the user ID. It works through the data networks to share multimedia content. WhatsApp used to send across the messages in plain text, but the latest version claims that it is encrypted without specifying the cryptographic method involved.

One of the foremost concerns of this author is the privacy of communication and its security of transmission. It cannot be stressed enough that using an Android/ iOS based handset is akin to leave the digital doors open. These useless platforms do nothing to inspire confidence and are merely glorified electronics to tinker with for the masses. Notably Android has spawned a cottage industry of malware and viruses that can virtually hijack your investments in the device in no time.

Arguably, potential identity thefts are below the threshold of detection since it has not reached a critical mass.

However, it doesnt mean that it cannot happen. WhatsApp has also been in the line of fire for its failure to communicate its employed security methods. Anyone, with the right tools can hijack user sessions and spoof conversation. Imagine the victims number being cloned and the contacts sent random spam messages. Its application interface is insecure which has been proven on multiple occasions. It has also been under cloud from the Canadian regulators because it uploads the entire contents of the contacts directory on their servers. Although the company claims that this is stored in the hash form, but it does not inspire confidence in view of their perceived security practices.

The situation is dismal for other popular chat applications (like WeChat) as well because they can easily be hacked by skill practitioners. Their insecure practices have been highlighted across several fora and the purpose of this write up is to generate awareness of these potential issues.

This authors preferred means of communication device is BlackBerry Q10 that surpasses its own progeny in terms of keyboard optimisation and the typing experience. Using WhatsApp is equivalent of sheer torture. It easily gets the vote for one of the worst engineered applications for BlackBerry 10; exceeded only by Skype. The number of active users does not indicate the metric of robustness of a platform. It is merely a reflection of viral marketing.

BlackBerry Messenger, in contrast, is a breath of fresh air in terms of user interface and overall usability. It is possible to send and receive the messages of unlimited length with personal updates. Multimedia content can be shared with the contacts easily with sharing of music files and their updates. BlackBerry Messenger got a major boost with BlackBerry Messenger connected applications, which made it, possible to share the applications update with other users.

BBM Channels, a significant update gets a Tumblr like interface making it easy for anyone to set up their own channels and interact with the users in real time. With one swoop, it has surpassed Facebook for the mobile platform; interacting with brands in secure platform without displaying user targeted advertisements. Unarguably, the meat of the usage of this application is real time confirmation of delivery and read receipts. No other application has this killer feature. Users get the ability to set up Group Chats (limited to 30 users). The media upload is limited to about 6 MB file, which saves your data bills as well as network friendly. The contacts can be added through unique PINs, QR codes that can be scanned (and uploaded on the social channels in order to connect) or through the magical near field communication (NFC). The crowning glory for the BlackBerry Messenger on Blackberry 10 platform is the ability to do video chat and share the screens. This author feels that this is the ultimate in mobile communication. On many occasions, this author has remotely interfaced and collaborated with his significant others to troubleshoot the issues on their end. Needless to say, but the entire conversation is highly secure and encrypted with state of the art encryption protocols.

The full review of BBM Channels will be possible with the release of highly anticipated 10.2 update and is currently under heavy development in beta. At the time of writing, it has received a significant update with numerous feature additions and bug fixes. The highly anticipated feature of 10.2 is reply through notifications which deserves its own write up.

BlackBerry Messenger remains the cornerstone and the defining application for mobile devices, which is due to be released shortly for other platforms as well. Once used, you would realise the true power of this application and base platform.

The writer is a practicing doctor with keen interest in technology