Research In Motion Ltd. announced Wednesday that it’s adding the feature to BBM. Users will be able to switch back and forth from a text chat to a voice call. A split-screen option will let them talk and text at the same time.
The new feature is a free update for existing customers and comes months before RIM introduces its new BlackBerry 10 smartphones, which are seen critical to RIM’s survival.
BBM voice feature is especially attractive for developing markets. Unlike regular texts, BBM messages are not charged on a per-text basis.The new feature is compatible with Bluetooth or wired headsets, as well as any other accessories a user may already have for making voice calls.
Although RIM is struggling in North America, the BlackBerry continues to sell well in such markets as South Africa, Nigeria and Indonesia.
The BBM service has long been a reason for BlackBerry users to not defect to other smartphones but there are rival messaging services.
RIM said the BBM voice update is currently available for BlackBerry smartphones running the BlackBerry 6 operating system or higher, with plans for BlackBerry 5 later. RIM’s latest phones run the 7 operating system. The next version, BlackBerry 10, will come soon after a Jan 30 launch event.