The much-anticipated BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) app for Android looks set to appear on Friday, with Samsung's African customers apparently lined up to be the first to get access to the app.
YES WE DID!!!! Available frm Friday RT @supersanusi: If Samsung really did get the 3 month exclusive like I heard, that would be something— Samsung Mobile NG (@samsungmobileng) September 16, 2013
Since the tweet, though, Samsung has refused to comment further and BlackBerry has denied that there will be an exclusivity agreement in place preventing BBM for Android from being installed on other phones, as had been originally reported.
A spokesperson for Samsung says that the company will support all instant messaging apps available on Android, but the two firms have already entered into a marketing partnership around BBM which will see the BlackBerry app become part of Samsung's Messaging Hub on its smartphones once its released and promoted by the South Korean company.
Analyst Steven Ambrose of StrategyWorx says that the move by Samsung was a shrewd one: "Samsung is very opportunistic in all markets and especially in Africa. It realises that BBM is big in emerging markets and once the opportunity arose to grab the lead in offering the app on Android came up, it jumped on the opportunity to offer it first. It's part marketing and part smart."
There's no word yet about whether BBM for Android will be available in other African countries on Friday, although more details could emerge at BlackBerry launch events around the world tomorrow. The events are widely expected to be about the app.
While BlackBerry's future is uncertain thanks to declining marketshare and a looming sale, the company does still have a stronghold in emerging markets and especially in Africa. In South Africa and Nigeria, it still commands around 50 percent of the smartphone market — although that share is likely to drop as low-cost data connectivity through BlackBerry Internet Services is phased out in favour of less competitive tariffs.
Samsung, meanwhile, is investing heavily in the continent with dedicated retail stores and a new CEO for its African operation, Sung Yong Hong. Hong is looking to aggressively expand Samsung's already strong position in Africa and is aiming to be the number one vendor of both low cost and high end handsets — effectively displacing both Nokia and BlackBerry.
It does face tough competition, however. Nigerian company Tecno has successfully built up Africa's only homegrown phone brand thanks to keenly priced white labelled Android handsets, and was recently singled out by chip manufacturer Qualcomm as a key partner on the continent.