BlackBerry brings video calling to Android and iPhone BBM users

Video chat beta now up and running for US and Canadian users of BBM; worldwide rollout due in July.

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BBM video calling: not just for BlackBerry handset owners.

Image: BlackBerry

BlackBerry is making video calling available for users of its BBM messaging service on Android and iOS devices.

The beta video feature is currently only be available to US and Canadian users as BlackBerry said it wanted to "monitor performance, gather feedback, and iron out any kinks" ahead of making video calls available to iOS and Android BBM users worldwide in July.

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Users don't have to opt-in: when they tap on the icon to initiate a call with a BBM contact, it will ask whether they want to make a voice call or try a video call.

BlackBerry 10 users are already able to make video calls with other BlackBerry 10 users over BBM. BlackBerry said the service will work with devices running Android 4.4 (KitKat) and higher, and iOS 8 and higher.

More bandwidth available to mobile users means that use of video calls is on the rise: according to Pew Research nearly half (47 percent) of adult US smartphone users made a video call in 2015.

"In business, live video helps people put faces to names, virtually meet job candidates, make decisions in real time, and save tremendously on travel expenses," said Matthew Talbot, senior vice president of emerging solutions at BlackBerry.

BlackBerry is trying to widen the appeal of BBM: last month it dropped a $1-a-month subscription fee for access to additional privacy and messaging control features. But this comes as other messaging services are falling out of love with BlackBerry: in March Facebook dropped its native Blackberry app and WhatsApp plans to drop support for BlackBerry by the end of 2016.

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