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BlackBerry’s big surprise: BBM beats major messaging rivals in engagement

Updated Nov 8th, 2013 9:50PM EST
BBM User Engagement Study

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BlackBerry shocked the messaging app industry by hitting 20 million combined iPhone and  Android downloads in just a week after BBM went cross-platform. Now, new Android data from Mobidia provided exclusively to BGR shows that right after its launch, BBM pulled ahead of or matched major rivals in the key metric of weekly engagement. This is particularly impressive considering that consumers who have downloaded BBM have not had much time to build up dense network of contacts that would drive extensive engagement, nor does BBM offer the kind of range of games, stickers or other diversions that LINE and Kik feature.

In the week of October 20th, BBM’s engagement was 40 minutes in the United States, moving well ahead of Tango’s 24-minute engagement level. It’s worth noting that Tango reached 130 million users last spring and it added gaming to its messaging platform already in 2012.

BBM also nearly matched the 44-minute engagement level of Viber. This is a solid performance considering how BBM has yet to roll out a coherent content strategy. The hot teen favorite Kik remains far above the field with 106 minutes of engagement, so BBM still has a way to go to catch up with the biggest messaging apps.

Even more impressively, BBM soared ahead of LINE in major European markets and soundly beat its Asian rival by posting European engagement of 59 minutes versus LINE’s engagement of 38 minutes. LINE has been aggressively courting European consumers for more than a year and is now prepping a Tokyo IPO that is expected to become one of the blockbuster listings of the year in Asia. In Europe, WhatsApp remains the engagement titan, reaching weekly level of 160 minutes.

BlackBerry’s messaging app has a long way to go before it can dream of challenging Kik or WhatsApp in their core markets. But the early engagement numbers of BBM do not seem to reflect the morbid curiosity of consumers who downloaded it to play around it for a few minutes —they look like a sign of real consumer interest in the service.

After launching mobile game company SpringToys tragically early in 2000, Tero Kuittinen spent eight years doing equity research at firms including Alliance Capital and Opstock. He is currently an analyst and VP of North American sales at mobile diagnostics and expense management Alekstra, and has contributed to, Forbes and Business 2.0 Magazine in addition to BGR.