In the early days of Android and iOS, there was already another established player on the market — Blackberry. The keyboard flaunting devices have since adopted Android as their primary OS, but before that was the case, they had an ace up their sleeves in the form of BBM.

BBM, or Blackberry Messenger, was the forerunner to services like WhatsApp, iMessage, and Telegram. The VOIP SMS service using PINs was massive in the mid-2000s as it was entirely free to text anyone — so long as you had their BBM PIN.

iMessage was enterprising, but real OG’s know that BBM was the real player back in the day. It finally made the jump from Blackberry devices to iOS and Android way back in 2013 but has struggled to gain any real traction thanks popular cross-platform services like WhatsApp and, of course, the iOS exclusive iMessage.

Well, today is officially the last day you’re able to use the consumer app as it’s finally shutting down. A post on the official BBM Twitter account confirmed the shutdown, although it’s worth noting that BBM Enterprise is still online and usable for the foreseeable future.

So here are five solid alternatives that offer free messaging to jump over to — iOS users, well, you can stick to iMessage.


WhatsApp

WhatsApp - BBM alternative

The biggest cross-platform messaging application on the planet by some margin, and arguably one of the core reasons for BBM’s initial jump to iOS and Android.

I use WhatsApp daily, heck hourly. In most of Europe, Africa, India, and Oceania, WhatsApp reigns supreme. There’s a desktop app and webpage that supports messaging from your browser, PC or Mac too — which is especially helpful.

One advantage that WhatsApp as always had over services that require a PIN or login is that it plugs directly into your contacts list. You simply log in with your telephone number, activate and any contacts you have already using the service you’re able to chat with.

Other features include video and voice calling, Snapchat-like timed video Statuses and tt’s completely free too.


Telegram

Telegram - BBM alternative

Telegram prides itself on being one of the most secure cross-platform messengers online. Like WhatsApp, it has a desktop app and is touted as the ‘fastest messaging app on the market’. I’m not sure how they have got to that conclusion, but I have no reason to doubt it.

An area that Telegram really beats out many others is the cross-device syncing. You can start a message on one handset and finish on your desktop for instance. Mac and iPhone users will laugh at this but for those of us not in the ‘walled garden’, it’s nice to get some similar features without the binds of Cupertino.

I like the ability to start ‘secret chats’ too, which isn’t possible in many other messaging clients. Even better still, you don’t need to share a telephone number to add a friend and start messaging.


Signal

Signal - BBM alternative

With a very similar, simply interface as you’ll find on Telegram, you could be forgiven for confusing the two applications at first glance. Signal is a ‘privacy-conscious’ messaging application but it uses telephone numbers as an identifier — which isn’t exactly secure.

Either way, this Open Source option enables anyone to verify its security and audit the code. End-to-end encryption is par for the course with every message, and you can even make voice and video calls too.


Viber

Viber

I’m not personally familiar with Viber, apart from via the Childish Gambino track ‘3005’. It has been around for a long time, longer than BBM — and now a little bit longer too…

Viber claims over 1 billion users worldwide, although I’ve never seen it being used personally. Like the rest, it includes a desktop app, video calling, and group chat functionality on top.

All chats are end-to-end encrypted too, while there are even features that allow you to pay for specific bundles of texts and calls when traveling.


Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger

The biggest social media network on the planet has one of the best messaging apps attached to it. Facebook may be a shady hole of misinformation and long lost relatives with their ‘odd’ political views and conspiracy theories but dang it, Facebook Messenger is excellent.

Of course, it does technically rely on owning a Facebook account, but you can deactivate your account and still use the messaging platform — something I’ve done a couple of times before.

The wealth of features is insane. Polls, group chats, video and voice calling, desktop, mobile and web apps, photo and video stories, and tons more on top. The only problem: it’s still Facebook — as is WhatsApp. It’s still arguably the most feature-packed of the messaging apps out there though.

Oh and there is a Lite version of the app too — which none of the others on this shortlist include — it uses less data and even has a much smaller application footprint.


Hopefully one of those options fills the void left by the outgoing BBM. If not, well you can always migrate to the Enterprise edition and hope your contacts come with you? Either way, so long BBM, thanks for blazing a trail in the instant messaging space.

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