Something pretty strange is going on. BlackBerry is having a great week for the first time since Natasha Bedingfield topped the charts. On its third day, BBM for iPhone is clinging onto the No. 2 slot on the top free iOS app chart after rocketing to No. 1 right out of the gate. This is no trivial achievement. Nokia’s HERE maps for iPhone hit the No. 1 spot in the U.S. soon after it launched, but it had plunged to No. 27 by its third day. Morbid curiosity only takes you so far. And that is what many expected BBM to do — hit the top and drop out of the top-10 in about a day. Yet the app is showing remarkable legs considering it was downloaded 10 million times during its first 24 hours of availability. Notable early glitches don’t seem to have stalled its momentum at all.
It is worth noting that the top of the iOS app chart has a steep curve. The leading app has between 8 and 10 times the download volume of the No. 10 app. The volume gap between the No. 1 and No. 3 apps can be 100%.
Holding onto the No. 2 position in the brutal U.S. market is a big deal. But it’s the global appeal of BBM that really pops out. It held the No. 1 download position in 73 countries on Thursday morning at App Annie’s comprehensive global iPhone chart page. The app’s success in Latin America, Caribbean, Middle East and select European countries is not surprising; BlackBerry used to have strong user bases in Brazil, Mexico, UK, Kuwait, UAE, etc.
Grabbing top spots in India and France is stunning, however. BlackBerry never reached mainstream status in India before the Android avalanche buried it there. The company also didn’t achieve UK-type success in France or the Netherlands. Yet the BBM app is now the most downloaded iOS application in markets where WhatsApp already owns 70% of the market, or even more.
BlackBerry has lost perhaps 20 million subscribers from its peak base a few years ago, so it is understandable that many of those might want to download BBM. But BBM was already downloaded by more than half of the lost subs in the first 24 hours of its availability. Now it has cracked the top of the iPhone charts in countries where BlackBerry never had real traction, even moving into the top-10 in Germany.
Consumers in markets like Indonesia and Spain already have 3-4 different messaging apps on their iPhones; WhatsApp, Line, Kik, Tango and so on. BBM does not yet offer the sticker, game or content delivery add-on features that apps like Line, KakaoTalk and WeChat have pioneered. In the modern app universe, BBM looks rather austere. Yet smartphone owners in some of the most saturated messaging app markets in the world are now embracing the BBM launch with remarkable ardor.
Something fascinating is going on here.