The official launch of BlackBerry 10 may still be a couple months out, but an update to RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger service is paving the way with the addition of an enticing new feature: The ability to make free VoIP calls over Wi-Fi to your BBM contacts, complete with a visual indicator to show when said contacts are available for squawking.
The BBM 7 update also adds split-screen multitasking capabilities, so while you’re busy chatting away on a free Wi-Fi call, you can simultaneously check your email, text someone else, or even use another app.
A handful of other new features should help smooth out the overall BBM experience. The service will now automatically ping users when a new update is available, then allow them to update in-app. BlackBerry Messenger 7 also syncs your BBM profile with your BlackBerry ID for easier back up and multi-device use.
The addition of VoIP calling is definitely the crown jewel of BBM 7, but the gem isn’t flawless. It won’t work over cellular networks, for instance, while BBM only facilitates contact with other BlackBerry users – and there ain’t many of those left around anymore. If you’re interested in BBM 7 for the VoIP calling, you might have better luck with Skype, which allows 3G calls and has a cross-platform user base. Skype’s only available on Verizon’s BlackBerry phones, though.
No matter which carrier you’re using, if you have a BlackBerry phone, there’s pretty much no reason not to upgrade to BBM 7. The App World store is still showing version 6.2 for us at this time, but look for BBM 7 to pop up sometime today.