40% of BBM’s 5-star reviews could have been bought

facebook tip bbm astruturfingRight at the beginning, I must mention that this post has changed significantly from what it was originally planned to be. Back on Tuesday afternoon (or in the early hours of morning for those in the US) I came across this Facebook post on the left by a friend of mine.

At first, I was inclined to dismiss it as coincidence. However, since she had linked to the app, I decided to maybe have a look, and the pattern was instantly noticeable. I quickly wrote up a blog post with some additional data which pointed out that as many as 40% of BlackBerry’s 5+ star ratings could have come from nefarious means.

The post was ready to go live, but I wanted to wait and talk it out with Rob. The accusations are huge, and I wanted his opinion. We talked it out, and decided to hold on until I could get some more damning evidence.

More than just a meme

Unfortunately, other blogs caught whiff of it and hit publish. Unfortunate not because we weren’t the ones to break the news (well, that too) but because I had written a bit of Javascript code that I had injected via the Chrome browser’s inspector to look at as large a number of comments as possible, and the reason I had delayed the post was to improve the script a bit more to get an even larger data set.

The problem is most blogs seem to be focusing on one particular comment that is being repeated as the proof of possible fake downloads and reviews. A lot of other reviews have come in from users filling up the Google Play page, making it impossible to separate the sarcastic comments and the potentially fake ones.

bbm reviews

The issue that I noticed was that there were a multitude of other questionable reviews in there, that mentioned the “smoothness” and “user friendliness” of the app, and thanked BlackBerry. From my experience as a developer, I found it difficult to fathom that so many users actually wrote such detailed praise. Clearly someone was sending out a bunch of mails to people telling them to write something that contained these buzzwords, and probably had a larger order than they ever dealt with hence leading to a lot of people writing the exact same thing. That’s why I built the script to find reviews containing the words “user friendly”, “smooth”, and “thank” (for either thank you BlackBerry or thanks BlackBerry), the most repeated phrases.

That’s when things started becoming even more suspicious: out of 213 4+ star written reviews, 5 mentioned all the three keywords, an additional four mentioning both “user friendly” and “smooth”, 43 mentioning “smooth”,  6 saying “user friendly” and 37 saying “thanks”. That is about 45% of BBM’s 4+ star reviews that I checked. For 5 star reviews from the sample set, that percentage is even higher at 53%.

It still could be a coincidence, so I decided to have a look at one of the most popular apps in the category: Whatsapp. For a 167 4+ star reviews of Whatsapp that I had a look at, less than 13% mentioned the key phrases, with no review mentioning them together.

The difference is just staggering. My belief was that potentially 40% of BBM’s 5-star reviews (which numbered over 60,000 at the time) were questionable. I would have loved to have gotten a lot more data to back up my claim, but it’s not possible right now. You can, however, see the raw data of the reviews I scanned (for both Whatsapp and BBM), visit this Google Drive document.

Who stands to benefit?

When I reached out for comment, all I got was the statement they’re sharing with everyone (despite me explicitly meaning I’m writing about my suspicions about that 40% number):

Thank you for reaching out. We are aware of a number of potentially fake five-star reviews of BBM for Android on Google Play. We do not approve of or condone such activities and are committed to working with Google to resolve this. There are also many genuinely great and useful reviews from our new BBM users on Google Play. We would like to encourage our passionate fans and users to continue to provide true assessments of the BBM experience through the proper channels.

That’s expected since it’s just the PR-team working to handle the shit-storm. Obviously, they’re not going to come out and say “yup, we did it”. However, it’s difficult to imagine who would be behind such a large and coordinated effort if not them, or at least someone working on their behalf.

  • Buying reviews in such huge amounts can cost serious money, so I believe that rules out crazy fanboys coming together (which would probably have left a trail, too).
  • Employees could have potentially pooled some money if they felt it was really important for the app to succeed for the company’s future and their own employment. That, however, would raise questions as to how high up within their hierarchy was this known.
  • A PR agency hired by them seems the most likely in an effort to publicize the app online. A high volume of downloads and ratings gives them more stuff to pitch to bloggers and write about on forums. However, this raises questions whether the move was authorized by BlackBerry.
  • BlackBerry itself would almost certainly not take the risk of getting caught themselves. Information about the payments could have easily become public, and would be the easiest of all the options to track down.

The business of buying and selling reviews and downloads

Coincidentally, I received a mail from someone offering me to purchase downloads and reviews for an app I have uploaded to the Play Store. Here is the offer I received (emphasis is mine):

You will get 20 or more 5 Star Ratings delivered in less than 5 days for just $69. My friends will write reviews and we will also share it with Google+ so your app page will look good.  This is has been enough to get some apps on the front page in some categories! Or You can order 50+ 5 Star Ratings and 50 positive Comments delivered in less than 5 days for $169! as a bonus we will do 50+ google shares too.

With this package, you are guaranteed to see a HUGE improvement on your overall ranking in Google Play store and other android markets… and you stand the chance of getting noticed by the editors and have your app be recommended by the Editors (which would mean 1000s if not 100s of thousands of downloads)!!!!

After the incident, I tried to reach back to the sender trying to get a quote on a larger volume and, more importantly, a few examples of the Google+ profiles that would be used to share the app. I haven’t received a response, but if I have to make a guess whoever performed this for BlackBerry, would probably have paid a much smaller amount per review considering most seemed to be coming from Asian countries.

This isn’t the first time large corporations are potentially employing such questionable tactics: back in 2010 there was something very suspicious about a poll for Wall Street Journal readers asking who makes the best mobile operating system. And just this past week, the Taiwanese Fair Trade Commission fined Samsung and two marketing companies for employing people that “highlighted the shortcoming’s of competitors” and performed a “disinfection of negative news surrounding Samsung” on various forums. Unfortunately, with a petty fine for the three companies adding up to just a little over half a million dollars, it hardly does scares off future infringements.

Gaming the system, and why it needs to be stopped

Let’s get this very clear to anyone out there thinking this is a Google Play Store problem: developers have been looking at ways to cheat their way to the top of any app distribution channel from the very beginning. Here’s a post from TechCrunch talking about a similar issue back in 2009 for iOS apps. That issue was much easier to digest that the “download bots” on the App Store that helped free apps reach the top of the charts. I know somebody personally who used such a tactic, and while it cost them quite a bit while starting out, they made a killing over the longer term.

The issue I have with such practices is that it’s already incredibly difficult for an indie-developer to get noticed and succeed. When these developers fail to earn what they would liked to from their work, they might shy away from future projects and that, in turn, hurts the entire ecosystem.

However, it gets worse when larger companies behave like this, and I would rate it close to anti-competitive behavior. While BBM has a sizeable contingent of loyal fans, a higher rating for the app could be the deciding factor for a lot of people over other competitors. It’s not easy to predict how much the like of WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, etc would lose as a result of this (unlikely to be a large amount individually due to the competitiveness of the segment) it is clear that, if the allegations are true, they BlackBerry has benefited. After all, they’re claiming to have seen the app downloaded 10 million times in 24 hours.

The punishments that could be dished out

This is probably what I have been thinking about the most: how could Google punish perpetrators, once confirmed, that it makes a company think twice about such strategies? The extreme answer is probably banning them from the Play Store entirely. However, this might not be an easy step for them to take, with potential legal ramifications.

A more likely one is that they could bring to the Play Store from their bread-and-butter: penalties in search results. Search is a very important source of new users for apps, and also where developers benefit the most from inflated download counts, reviews and ratings. By penalizing their ranking for a significant portion of time, the loss suffered by the developer could be significantly more than the gains.

Google might also need to work on a spam filter for reviews. Yelp, for example, only publishes about three-quarters of the reviews in an effort to combat phoney-reviews. I know Google Play has a “mark as spam” option, but at this scale, reviews need to be blocked right from the beginning.

At a larger scale, the FTC would need to step in and impose fines, like the ones Samsung faced. These are rare particularly since they’re often done through other marketing companies, with even more complications when comments are coming from users on the other side of the globe. This is what has allowed most companies to astroturf without any consequences.

If this starts becoming standard practice (and it very well could) then matters could become really bad. For instance, there were reports that 20% of Yelp reviews were fraudulent, and New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman began an investigation that saw 19 companies fined $350,000 for astroturfing. Honestly, at about $20,000 per company, I don’t think it’s going to stop anyone.

Conclusion and Poll

I am not a fan of BlackBerry, and was particularly not happy with the way they went about releasing BBM, though I have stated before that I respect what they have done for the industry in the early-to-mid 2000s. If BlackBerry did indeed use such tactics (which would help increase their visibility on Play Store as well as convert more users who are on the fence about installing the app), then I would personally say that BlackBerry has reached its lowest. And considering everything they’ve gone through the last couple of years, that’s saying something.

In the entire mess, it’s difficult to put a number as to what BBM’s true rating would have been (my approximation was in the mid-3-point-somethings). Even without what happened, I believe they would have done a decent enough job to be called a success, and the response would have been nowhere near the negative one that Facebook Home got.

If you did download the app, do let us know the rating that you gave (or would give).

Continue reading:




  • Delmar

    just text or tweet me

  • Jordan Caviness

    i downloaded it and the only downside is that there are not many people on it(yet). but you cant knock an app for population. the app works great..all messages are instant which is why i prefer over sms. the emoticons and the ability to send pictures and videos works without an issue..and maybe its me, but i think the quality of video is same once it is sent. it is multiplatform for BB,iOS,and Android…..people seem to knock it for it being an old service… but it is a good old service…at first i was not interested at all but gave it the BOTD, and i like it..4 stars for me because there is always room for improvement..i never give 5 star ratings.

    • shonangreg

      Can’t knock an app for population? Did you notice how many permissions the app required? I halfway expected it to scan through everything on my phone and find everyone else using BBM.

      I was at least prepared to change my password on gmail and let it do its scan, but BBM never asked. And with this Play ratings behavior, I don’t know if BlackBerry could be trusted not to spam all my contacts — in my name, no less.

      I don’t think BlackBerry could have had a worse launch. They were incompetent, then they cheated, then they lied.

  • TalkingMoose

    No tablet support, no way to exit the app, waiting list before you can register an ID. And this is the “fixed” release! Now to see that they are buying reviews–that’s fraud. They’re misrepresenting their product. Google should ban them from the Play Store. It’s the one punishment that carries weight.

    Users will get ticked off at Google, but it’s not Google’s fault that Blackberry is trying to mislead consumers. And if you can’t get your app on the Play Store if you’re caught padding reviews, you’re going to have to stop. Sideloading really isn’t an option (look at what happened when fake BBM apps sprang up last time).

  • http://ryan.snook.cc/ Snook

    Downloaded to see what the hype was about. It’s no better than any other messaging app. No way to search for existing contacts, only invite, I’m not inviting people to this app. Doesn’t follow Android design guidelines. Google Hangouts is a better messaging app.

  • steveb944

    I gave it 5 stars because it’s a great app. It may be my nostalgia from my old Blackberry Pearl Flip, but I like it. Replaced my Whatsapp immediately.

    What if a competitor did it in order to give them a bad rep? This can be either software or hardware because there’s quite a few of them out there with deep pockets.

    • Jordan Caviness

      i see that as well…i had bb for a while before going to android… that made me download the app too..

  • johnny989

    Thank so you much Phandroid team. I was waiting for this article. It’s great, user friendly, and smooth!

    (100% Not paid for by Raveesh Bhalla, Chris Chavez, or Chris Chavez’s hair)

  • Brian

    I would rate it a 2. Its functional but that’s it. The invitation process is horrible, features are severely lacking compared to comparable apps, you can only use on one device, notifications are just terrible, no sms intergration and the only people that seem to be using this app are from Asia. I have no idea how anyone would rate this app 4-5 stars its not even close to a compelling option as is right now. On first download it should scan your contacts to see who has bbm but that is not an option so basically you have to know if anyone uses it. Its a terrible expierence. I don’t get it even this poll how do you rate this 4-5 stars? How? It makes zero sense to me! Fanboys? Bb shills?

    • optiks

      whatsapp and Line, 2 very popular IM apps, also don’t have sms integration. How could BBM scan your address book for anyone using BBM? That would require you to store their PIN and considering that until recently no one on Android or iOS had BBM, why would they go around asking their friends or contacts with BBM for their PIN? Line doesn’t do this either and its what makes whatsapp something I want to get away from since ANYONE with my number can see I use it. Maybe I don’t want someone to know that I now have BBM.

      If you were coming from BBM and had a BB ID that was still active, all you have to do apparently is enter your ID and password and all those BBM contacts will show up from the backup. Line does the same thing. Also, whatsapp and Line do not allow you to use the same login credentials on multiple devices; you will get logged out (whatsapp does this when you switch SIM cards and activate on another device, and Line does this when you try to log in); ONLY iMessage lets you do that. And honestly, I’m one that does not need to be bothered across devices. What happens on my phone I prefer to stay on my phone so I can chose to ignore it and not have someone ask why I didn’t respond; if it’s urgent, they can call. I’ll take a nice D and R to double check marks that mean nothing any day.

      Only Asia? The vast majority, maybe, but teens in the UK are the majority BBM users there, and many governments and military use it worldwide.

      How are notifications terrible? An icon with an asterix, a tone, and a flashing LED aren’t enough? Sure BBM has some things it needs to add, but it certainly does not have any major “short-comings” that make it greatly less functional than other apps, at least on the messaging front.

  • SamFromDowntown

    Raweesh,

    So — you have an axe to grind to BlackBerry. It is big of you to admit this front & center. Next step: can you see how your beef with the Company is effecting how you are approaching this issue?

    For example, did you look at reviews on iTunes? No one has suggested reviews here are fake. Yet reviews here remain positive. That is, BB didn’t need to fake reviews
    to get good reviews. It moreover remains the #1 download in 80 countries.

    Second: cui bono? The suggestion here is that somehow BB would benefit from fake reviews. Really? These messages were so obviously, ridiculously fake this was sure to become an issue. And it has. To my mind, the astroturfing is an obvious attempt to discredit the company.

    Lastly — did you get upset and indignant when a rash of fake malware-infested BBM
    apps flooded the AppStore and caused BB to delay it launch? Did you go write some chrome script to analyze that? Did you get up on your soapbox and cry foul?

    Look — you just hate BlackBerry and are looking for ways to blacken their name. Here they have gone and provided a **free** app for people to use if they want to. It is a
    good system. (And if people don’t want to use it — then don’t.) In light of this, wtf is your problem?

    So — fake reviews are submitted to discredit the company and then you just pile on, trying to discredit the company all because BlackBerry has given the world a free IM app.

    Don’t you have something better to do with your time? Seriously…

    • Raveesh Bhalla

      “Don’t you have something better to do with your time?”

      This is my work, so no, I didn’t have something better to do considering I think it’s important to mark out when someone is potentially gaining from wrong practices.

      I do have better stuff to do right now than reply to the rest of your post.

      • SamFromDowntown

        If you are so concerned about the integrity of Google Play, where was the article detailing all the fake BBM apps a few weeks ago? Isn’t this your *job*, as you put it? Or is it only your job when you can do journalism that fits with your politics?

        Btw, someone jammed Google Play a few weeks ago to frustrate BBM’s launch. Then, this week, someone stuffs Google Play with a barrage of **obviously* fake reviews. Related? Hmm?

        As a :”journalist”, isn’t this an angle to pursue? Raveesh?

        • Raveesh Bhalla

          Someone jammed Google Play to frustrate BBM’s launch? Can you tell me how you can across this piece of information, considering Google’s servers were perfectly working on every other app.

          So your accusation here is that both Google and Apple were doing something in conjunction to prevent BBM from launching on other platforms?

          • SamFromDowntown

            Raveesh,

            I gave you the link above. The Guardian ran it. On the morning BBM was to launch the Play Store got flooded with fake apps. Every time one was removed, three more were put up. One of these apps was an unreleased beta version of the real deal, but one which loaded up BB’s servers. That spread like crazy and BB could not nuke the rogue version.

            The iOS launch was going smoothly when all this happened, fwiw.

            Again, it makes NO SENSE that BB would flood Google Play with OBVIOUSLY FAKE reviews, so fake that their fakeness could be quantified by a bit of Chrome script. The risk/reward of BB doing this makes no sense at all.

          • Stefano Gaggero

            Yes Sam, all the fake BBM apps that littered Google’s Play store were all littered with fake reviews that oddly enough, were similar to the ones Raveesh posted here.

            I read his long investigative report for nothing, for all his suspicions and innuendo he had no evidence to back his accusations and failed to mention other scenarios that are more likely.

            I don’t think BlackBerry needed to astroturf the reviews section. BBM is already a well known and respected flagship product that millions were eagerly waiting to download. I bet they didn’t even read a single review before downloading it.

          • abqnm

            Agreed. Evidence that SOMEONE posted fake reviews for the app =/= BlackBerry posting or paying for fake reviews. That is clear opinion and conjecture. The evidence fits more than one scenario and telling it like it a proven fact is, well, bad journalism. This should be clearly identified as an opinion piece.

          • mornhavon

            Sam, can we review a few of the facts? I am quite familiar with the matter and was following the attempted launch very closely.
            1) There were a few easily spotted BBM fakes on the Play Store shortly before the expected BBM launch, but the vast majority of them didn’t appear until hours after BlackBerry missed their own launch window. The fake apps were each taken down within hours of being uploaded (though others were uploaded), and had nothing to do with the delay of BBM.
            2) I’ve seen claims that the leaked APK was uploaded by a third party to Google Play, but if this is true, it was only there VERY briefly.
            3) BlackBerry loves to blame the leaked Android APK for the delay, but as you examine that claim it becomes clear B.S. At the stated launch time, the leaked APK had only been downloaded a few thousand times from various forums. If it did unofficially make an appearance on Google Play, it wasn’t there long enough for many to download it. In their first statement after the failure to launch, BlackBerry stated that the leaked APK & the legitimate Apple App Store downloads COMBINED totaled 1.1 million (this is on their blog) in the first 24 hours, this would have been nearly all Apple downloads, but they worded it poorly and the media picked this up as over a million leaked APK downloads (didn’t happen, wouldn’t happen). After a few days, BlackBerry started using this number themselves to excuse their failure.
            4) In another reality where the leaked APK was the truthful issue, BlackBerry had numerous avenues to block the leaked APK from working and continuing quickly with the launch, especially since they stated that the leaked APK was an “old version” with a known issue that they had already corrected. They didn’t relaunch the “proper” app quickly, they took a full month.
            5) Not only did they stop the Android launch for a full month, they stopped the iOS launch for a month. The initial iOS version was poorly received, as was the near-final Android version, their servers were also crippled from the load. So they took a full month to fix some of the issues and do a slow roll-out.

            Seeing how BlackBerry was dishonest about their launch issues, and that someone clearly paid A LOT of money for tens of thousands of fake (mostly) 5 star ratings, isn’t the most likely objective theory that someone close to BlackBerry panicked with all of the 1 star reviews angry with the “wait in line” app launch and fearing that they would lose millions of downloads if the average rating were only 2-3 stars, they decided to manipulate the rating to put it back to where it “should be”? Either they overestimated the talent of the Indian/Indonesian company that was hired, or they only cared about the short term rating since people would likely rate it better once they could actually get in and use it.

        • SamFromDowntown

          Fwiw, here is the piece that you did not write, Raveesh.

          http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/sep/24/blackberry-messenger-bbm-iphone-android

          “Rogue BlackBerry Messenger app delays official iOS and Android release.”

    • clayton

      If this were an opinion piece some of your arguments may make sense – but he went to a lot of trouble to collect a large sample of real and reviewable data – including comparisons to other similar apps.

      It’s clear that you are a BB fan – and that’s fine. If you think there are alternative theories as to why these fake reviews exist in such large quantities then you absolutely should voice them and back them up with whatever logic and evidence you can gather. However, it’s hardly fair to attack someone for pointing out a very real and provable issue. SOMEONE clearly gamed the system and that is artificially raising the review score of a popular app. Also, like it or not, the idea that someone was working (poorly) on behalf of BB is a much simpler explanation than the theory that someone was working against BB by attempting to appear as if they were working for BB.

      At the very least, it would seem easy to agree that it is in everyone’s interests to keep looking in to this and find out who is actually responsible, yes?

      • SamFromDowntown

        >> If this were an opinion piece some of your arguments may make sense

        It *is* an opinion piece, albeit thinly disguised. It is not news that lot’s of fake reviews were submitted. BB has press-released enough and stated it is working with Google to get to the bottom of it. Where is the news content?

        This is simply a pile-on, plain and simple. The clear innuendo here is that BlackBerry is responsible, yet zero evidence is provided.

        >> the idea that someone was working (poorly) on behalf of BB is a much
        simpler explanation than the theory that someone was working against BB
        by attempting to appear as if they were working for BB.

        It makes no sense that BB would pay to spam Google Play with VERY BAD, VERY FAKE reviews. This makes about as much sense as suggesting BlackBerry spammed Google Play with a bunch of fake BBM apps to give themselves an excuse for not releasing the app three weeks ago.

        There are a lot of people who don’t want cross-platform BBM succeed. There are a lot of motivations to want to discredit the effort. Perhaps on a related note, did you know that Apple broke BBM for iOS by removing a font in their 7.03 release? Who *removes* a font in a minor OS upgrade?

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      Its hard evidence against a serious case of malpractice. Doesn’t really matter if the writer likes Blackberry or not. There’s no opinion in this article. I used BBM in the past and really liked it. Using it now on Android and I still like it. Although the app could do with a LOT of improvement and design changes, it works just fine. But, I still cannot digest the fact that a developer as prominent as Blackberry would resort to such disgusting practices, assuming they did it. It could very well be someone else doing it for whatever reason. The writer does not claim its Blackberry doing it. What’s your mud-slinging trying to achieve here?

      You seem to be just a BB fan who sounds terribly hurt by the thought that someone is suggesting BB resorted to malpractice to make their app popular.

      And yes, Phandroid did report on the plethora of fake BBM apps that were polluting the Play Store.

      • SamFromDowntown

        >> But, I still cannot digest the fact that a developer as prominent as Blackberry would resort to such disgusting practices,

        There is NO evidence BB was behind this. None. Zero. Zilch. You are making very serious charges without a scintilla of substantiation..

        And on a balance of probabilities basis, it is highly unlikely that they were behind this. Why? Because the fake reviews were SO OBVIOUS. The people who did this WANTED it to be discovered. That is the only reasonable conclusion to be drawn.

        *Would* someone else want to sabotage the BBM launch? Sure. Again, look at Apple removing a font from their 7.03 release which came out a day or two after BBM was released. WHAT POSSIBLE REASON WOULD THERE BE TO REMOVE A SINGLE FONT FROM AN OS RELEASE OTHER THAN TO BREAK BBM? In my view this is a smoking gun showing that there are others out there that wanted to discredit BB and the BBM launch.

        Am I hurt by this, as you suggest? Not really. I am quite frustrated though. BlackBerry is doing the world a favour by offering everyone a FREE app, certain groups want to undermine this effort, and well meaning but oblivious groups like Phandroid inadvertently further the effort. Wake up, guys!

  • Thomas Jefferson II

    I thought this article was smooth and very user friendly. 5 stars! Thanks Raveesh!

    • bitch_please

      Thanks phandroid team, Thank you team phandroid so much!

    • Roaduardo

      Mr. Jefferson, like you I also has agree this article is best of best. 5 stars all to you good sir. Is best!

  • blest

    Straight Colin Powell’d this.

  • Marcus

    I directly erased the app, compared with whatsapp is horrible.

    • SamFromDowntown

      You directly erased the app meaning…. you didn’t use it? If so, how can you say, not having used it, that it is horrible as compared to whatsapp? Do you have psychic powers? The splash screen bothered you? Please do tell why we should care about the opinion of someone who hasn’t bothered to use the app?

      • Marcus

        What would be the idea to install and erase without testing it?… “directly erase” means I didnt even wasted my time in writing a review. After testing for a while I have arrived to this conclusion: its crap, Blackberry is condemned to disappear.

        • SamFromDowntown

          What didn’t you like about the app?

          • Marcus

            Customization (colors, fonts, make it dark), the sound notification for example, if you have headphones attached the sound is routed to headphones and not to the speakers (same problem with whatsapp), with whatsapp I can send a message to people just looking at my contact list, in BBM you have to invite them… etc, etc.

          • SamFromDowntown

            The invite is a feature not a bug. The BBM social network is based on dual opt-in. No one can contact you unless you agree to be contacted. Keeps the riff-raff out. A lot of people like this, especially the ladies

            Your two other points seem very minor. And what is the point of sending a sound notification to your speakers if you have headset on?

            You don’t care about read receipts? You don’t care about how brisk msg delivery is? Did you check out the group features?

          • Marcus

            I never wrote that it has bugs, for what I use is not better than whatsapp, thats all.
            For me is better if you can contact direct just adding the phone number to your phonebook.
            About read receipt, this is a lack of Whatsapp, on Whatsapp I can see if the message is delivered (arriving to the other end), if they read or not it doesnt matter for me. The group feature is not important for the use I do, I use whatsapp most for work and contact customers and partners, for personal use I try to avoid it as much as I can, I dont want to be a slave of the chat! :)
            The idea of sound notifications is this, my headphones are ever attached to my phone because it make last the battery, something not possible with bluetooth and I talk a lot by VOIP, for that is important to route the sound to both, headphones and speakers, something that whatsapp developers never understood.
            The only advantage I see of BBM is security, if you connect a lot to public wifi hotspot is something important, I rarely do it and the other advantaje is message delivery for the people that needs that feature,

    • Chris Eager

      Whatsapp is a battery drain.

      • Marcus

        I’m not agree, Whatsapp is the application with less weaklocks I ever seen, totally battery friendly, at least in my Galaxy S2

  • Dougau

    Downloaded but haven’t got the “invite” yet so it’s just a waste of space, I give CrapBerry a one.

  • RitishOemraw

    I think the fact that it requires a PIN can be very useful. Contacting people by giving them a pin instead of your phonenumber or email seems like soemthign that could fill a niche market (business contacts chatplatform or somehting) but I still have to figure out how exactly I will be using it. Luckily I didn;t have to wait long to get my email to get in after having downloaded it

    • abqnm

      There is always the option of creating a second email account just for chat apps. Then your real email is safe and you are not bound by the restrictions of BBM.

      • RitishOemraw

        But it is just not-done to give people an email address and say, don’t email me on that. It is just for chat. Okay, not-done is a bit too far. But especially with business contacts you don’t want them emailing you on the wrong email address (if you gave them the chat one when you first met them and gave the actual one after that)
        Either way, BBM might have a niche market or it might not. Time will tell.

  • mike s

    Pretty good app, works as its supposed to. (Also there is a setting to not make it run all the time if you’re really annoyed by the icon.)

    I think its highly possible that the fake ads didn’t come from Blackberry. They’re a publicly traded company about to be taken private. Maybe the BBM team (as opposed to management ) went rogue and wanted to ensure their job safety. Maybe the prospective buyer of RIM wanted to spice up the launch. Who knows, who cares?

    • RitishOemraw

      Maybe the prospective buyer was behind it. Knowing that people would find out and might hurt BB’s value, so they can get it for cheaper?

      IDK, is the deal already done yet or are they still negotiating on a price?

      • mike s

        I think the buyer locked in an option to buy at a certain price, unless someone comes in with a higher bid. Its a complicated transaction because the buyer gets what they already paid + a bonus for their trouble if a higher bid comes in.

  • whatsa2

    Who knows…really
    lets say there are 6 million BB phone users out there and 1% are avid fans

    It would be hard to say that this is anything other than what you see on
    other platforms specific stuff ALL the time.
    Even if true its a free app

    try it… if you dont like it dont use it…. simple.

  • CGS

    BB Messenger is great! It’s very user friendly and smooth! Thank you so much Blackberry!

    • CGS

      Just kidding I have no interest in it.

      • Del373

        It was obvious you were joking, you don’t need to specify. ;)

  • John Smith

    these canucks don’t have the smarts or talent to compete with Silicon Valley so they have to resort to cheating.

  • TrollSoul

    Why is this even a thing now. Everyone already has WhatsApp with ALL OF THEIR CONTACTS ALREADY SYNCED AUTOMATICALLY. Is BBM really necessary now? People I talk to on WhatsApp are telling me to add them to BBM. Why? What is the purpose? Do I really need to add everyone ONE BY ONE again to yet another chat app that has less functionality that WhatsApp? And then BBM users will get offended if you don’t add them to BBM even though you talk to them through WhatsApp, text, or Hangouts already. What’s worse is when you’re chatting on BBM and someone gets mad because you read a message and didn’t respond 2.5 seconds later. That’s one reason why I got rid of BBM in the first place. It’s not 2008 anymore.

    • Del373

      They get mad if you don’t respond promptly after reading their message? Haven’t they heard of a little thing called patience?

      • Chris Eager

        Yeah, isn’t that the purpose of IM and texting?…so we can reply when we get the chance? If you need me to answer right away, dial.

    • Stefano Gaggero

      While I disagree that BBM has less functionality I do understand your point about people expecting you to respond immediately when you don’t feel like it, the Read feature can be an annoyance… that’s why businesses with a BYOD policy will probably adopt BBM just for this feature: to annoy their employees by keeping a close leash. “Why didn’t you read your message? lost your phone?”

      • APai

        I wish there was an option for that ! while I like the privacy part of the app – having control over notification should be a user’s priority, like how email/ sms handles it

    • SamFromDowntown

      I don’t like the idea of an app rooting through my contact list and making decisions for me without my permission. It is called privacy. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but it is for some.

      Looking at the install stats from Google and the download stats for Apple and BBM appears set to be biggest first week app of all time. Can anyone think of an app that had a better start?

      • abqnm

        Yet another reason I doubt BlackBerry paid to post all these reviews. Who needs to pad reviews when you have a huge demand before launch?

        • APai

          they may have done it too – you never know, RIM might have been anxious to make it a success, after a string of failures. they have a perfectly good app, why mess it up this way!

      • TrollSoul

        But you click “accept” to allow an app access. So therefore it accesses your contact list WITH your permission. No decision was made without your permission…

        • Chris Eager

          But you click to accept access to ALL your contacts, no? What if I only want to add a few?…even though I may be able to pick and choose later who actually gets added, I may not want to give it permission to access ALL of my contacts in the first place…like my bosses. I don’t want to take the chance that the app will send them requests on my behalf.

  • Michael Quinlan

    I really don’t understand why anyone would be interested in BBM on any platform, including Blackberry – I never used it even when I had a Blackberry. The idea of a closed messaging platform is ridiculous. With so many open platform options available, what would compel anyone switch to BBM?

    • Stefano Gaggero

      What do you mean by “closed”?

      • abqnm

        Likely the fact that it is only on BlackBerry handsets, iOS handsets and a select number of Android handsets. No iPad or Android tablets. No Web browser version. You can only use one PIN on one device so no sharing between devices. It is still quite restricted as a “cross platform” messaging app.

        • APai

          I actuall like it from a privacy point of view. whats app and others are painful – because I have a ton of people with whom I do not want to chit chat with, with BBm it makes it convenient to not share the pin, you dont even have to say you have bbm. with whatsapp – if you both have your phone numbers listed in your address books – voila! so convenient AND painful!

          • abqnm

            I agree from the privacy point of view. I don’t use Whatsapp for that reason. I do use Hangouts though. At least that requires you to approve requests to be able to chat. Status messages would be nice but word is that is coming soon anyway.

            I just don’t know anyone who uses a blackberry anymore and I already chat with everyone I need to on Hangouts so really it doesn’t even appeal to me.

          • APai

            hangouts losing the invisible status is a deal breaker for me and lots of my friends. otherwise hangouts was pretty ideal for my needs

      • Michael Quinlan

        I meant in its original incarnation, it was exclusive to Blackberry users – i.e. “closed” to users of any other OS. In hindsight, “closed” was not the right word to use. Now they’re just the latest newcomer to multi-platform messaging systems, so they would have to offer something significant to compel people to use it, since you can still only use it to communicate with other people who also use it.

        I’m not a big messaging user, but for me, the universality of SMS has (so far) far outweighed the benefits of other systems. But now that I’m a tablet user I’m starting to see some advantage to other options. But still, I can use Google Voice on my tablet, and still communicate with anyone capable of SMS.

  • daniel

    I thought the same thing reading the reviews the other day.

  • Del373

    BBM has decent looks and thats about it. I’d give it two stars tops. They’d need to do a lot of damage control and add some really compelling new features to get anything more outta me.

    • Stefano Gaggero

      Didi you know about these features:

      Message Delivered confirmation: all except Skype
      Message Read confirmation: only BBM… not Whatsapp or skype or Viber
      Voice calls: Whatsapp doesn’t have voice calls, everybody else does.
      permanent groups: only BBM
      multiple chat per groups: only BBM
      group calendar: only BBM
      group photo albums: only BBM
      personal status stream: only BBM
      easy status updating: yes, only BBM
      cloud based contacts: BBM and Skype
      authorized contacts only: BBM and Skype
      BBM doesn’t require Phone Number sharing but Whatsapp and Viber do.

      • Fred Marshall

        Seems like hangouts has a bunch of those features too though.

        • Stefano Gaggero

          Could be, the chart I used only compared BBM, Skype, WhatsApp and Viber. It did not Incude iMessage, Kik, Hangouts and others.

          • SpacelySproketz

            Yeah that chart that been making the rounds and all BB fanboys been throwing out there is BBM for BB10 not the cross platform BBM.

          • APai

            how does it matter – people will use it if they want to! look at windows phone – there’s a bunch of passionate WP fans doing similar work :D

          • SpacelySproketz

            Strawman arguments

      • ScottColbert

        Your point?

        • Chris Eager

          His point?…seems like a lot of features already. Not bad for an app that just launched a week ago.
          Not to mention the features while in a group, like creating a checklist that everyone in the group can collaborate on (add to, check off, comment on, add photos to, etc.)…great for group camping trips where everyone can contribute to making sure certain items make it to the outing. Not sure any other IM has that.

  • ari_free

    The reviews were so obviously fake that I doubt they were paid. I’ve even seen reviews that started off with one name and ended the review with a different name. This was probably an amateurish attempt orchestrated by some BB fan website.

  • abqnm

    Nobody seems to be paying attention to the fact that there were thousands upon thousands of 1, 2, & 3 star reviews with the same key words and formatting. To me, this seems like a waste of money for Blackberry. Why would they pay to post low rating reviews (oddly with the same key words) on their own app? This is a common tactic of fake apps. They post fake, malware ridden apps and then buy reviews of all varieties to make the app look legitimate. If they bought all 4 & 5 star reviews, it would look oddly suspicious, so they mix it up to make the app look like it has been legitimately reviewed. I am not convinced that Blackberry or a PR company that they hired did this. First, they are not stupid. With all the scrutiny and attention BBM has been getting, anyone in their right mind would know this would be EXTREMELY obvious. Second, they have a waiting list to get into BBM to begin with. Why, if you have thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of customers waiting in line to download your app even before launch, would you need to supplement reviews? It just doesn’t add up.

    I am inclined to believe the theory that it was tied to one of the fake BBM apps and the bot was accidentally pointed to the real app instead of one of the malware ridden fake BBM apps. Sure, on the face, it would seem that it was Blackberry, but if you look at the big picture, what do they really stand to gain by paying for reviews on an app that was already tremendously popular even before it launched?

    • katiepea

      this is exactly what’s going on.

    • mornhavon

      Except each and every Google Play review requires a unique Google+ account, and the app to be downloaded/installed on a mobile device using that same account. As a result, tens of thousands (possible 100,000+, who’s to say many fake reviewers didn’t leave a comment at all?) of fake reviews wouldn’t come cheap, and a fake app publisher wouldn’t waste that kind of money on an app that would be pulled from the Play Store within hours (that’s right, the apps that were truly fake BBM apps were pulled WITHIN HOURS, though they kept getting slightly modified and re-uploaded).

      If you have hundreds of thousands of customers waiting in line getting irritated with that line and rating your app 1 star, you can’t envision a scenario where someone in the BlackBerry camp hires an Indian/Indonesian company to bolster the average reviews back to where they “should be”? Hindsight is 20/20, and if whoever hired them knew how poorly the reviews would be done, this could never have happened, or maybe they only cared about bolstering the reviews in the crucial first few days and would just deny everything afterward.

  • pr0xidian

    I love this app. I gave it a real 5 star rating.

  • Jb

    Who cares? Stop hating on BB.

  • supremekizzle

    Great article Raveesh. Really highlights your journalist capabilities.

  • ziplock9000

    The first page of your article is about how you were late to publish and beat by your competitors rather than about the article itself..

  • TornZero

    Thank you so much phandroid team. I was waiting this article. Its really great user friendly and smooth.

    • boredkid

      Thank you so much TornZero. I was waiting this comment. Its really great user friendly and smooth.

      • Chris Eager

        Thank you so much boredkid. I was waiting this comment. Its really great user friendly and smooth.

  • Dan

    Had to uninstall since it would turn off my Galaxy Nexus whenever it had a whim. And I am talking about a complete shut down, not a reboot. I have never had that happen before.

  • optiks

    If you want to know what rating someone gave or would give BBM, why would you include “did not download”? It completely throws off your poll and makes no sense whatsoever considering the question you asked. Makes you look like a BBM hater, which you said you are, and shows no objectivity. Poor journalism, or whatever you want to call it.

  • MC Wong

    It would be different if this was a paid app. Reviews on free apps are checked to ensure its not malware, crash the device, hog resources or drain batteries, steal credit card info, explode in our face lol. If it was a paid app then there are elements of fraud as it entices us to part with our money. Why the bother ? if it’s good use it, not good then uninstall.

  • Stefano Gaggero

    Thank you Phandroid team and Raveesh. I want you to know how impressed I am with the professional manner in which you research your articles. Thank you so much team Phandroid.

  • APai

    I simply do not know why Blackberry would do such a thing. they have a perfectly fine messenger app. it cares for user privacy – yeah those”pins” is SO year 2000. but the last thing we need is whatsapp and viber and others spamming our contact books to grow.

    while whatsapp is good, they have had a bunch of security lapses from time to time. BBm is much better on that count, although they really haven’t been tested outside of blackberry devices.

    however, if BBM becomes popular, I hope whatsapp and viber and others will be a taught a lesson or two in privacy. if not, at least people who bother about privacy at all can have a choice with bbm

  • Sharath

    I have left a review for the app and i have mentioned the word smooth in it,then what do you say if an app is functioning without any lag? I’m sure there are fake same style reviews there,but just because the word smooth is used,it doesn’t imply all are fake.

    • Raveesh Bhalla

      I left a significant margin for honest reviews with those words in it (in line with what I saw from WhatsApp)

  • Wade06

    BBM wouldn’t get past the loading screen so was quickly uninstalled. I guess the app will head the same way as the company… SOUTH!

  • http://www.swornbrotherhood.com/ nemesys06

    my personal opinion here is that the finger should not be pointed at bbm. Are they guilty? Maybe, can it be proven? No. Yes, I believe a number of these comments could be fake, however it could be the work of others attempting to get bbm out of the picture. “buy fake reviews get banned or taken off the list so you’ll never get found”.

    It is apparent there are fake reviews here but until it can be proven that bbm is behind this there should be no finger pointing. This article imo is bashing bbm for inconclusive evidence; not of the fake reviews but of who is behind it.

    As for the app itself, though I feel there is room to improve, I still feel it is a good app. The more people you know that user it the better. If I could give it a rating in between stars I would go with a 3.4. Good, not great but nowhere near bad.

  • Jangkrik Salto

    my theory is, those reviews came because of waiting list system. While some people broadcast a hoax, said like, if you want to skip the waiting list or get into front line quickly, you should write a review and give 5 stars first. Then many people who stupid and lazy enough, and maybe not too good in english, tought, why don’t just we just copy-paste. Again, it’s just my theory. But since many reviewers ‘came’ from my country, it becomes make sense. BBM is still have power here

    • bitflung

      i’m not aware of any way to post a review for an app i haven’t already downloaded from the play store…

      • Jangkrik Salto

        the waiting list system is not for downloading BBM. You can download and install on the first day it (re)launch. But, for using it ( create BB ID, got pin and the you can chat) , on day one and two, blackberry imposes the queue, possibly to prevent server overload. I’m not a BB fan. And never use BBM before. But I saw tremendous enthusiasm in many online forums in my country. Sorry for my bad english BTW

  • Chris Eager

    I saw the fake reviews on Play before any articles were written about it…checked Play before going to bbm.com because I was curious if the app was live and legit this time round. Even though the app is genuine, some of the reviews are obviously fake…not just because of the same words/phrases used but because said words/phrases were also identically written in the same broken English.

    I don’t care how those reviews got there anyways. I’m using the new BBM more in the past week than I’ve used any other IM on my Android since making the switch from BlackBerry four years ago. I was able to reconnect with friends back home that are still using BBM/BlackBerry. The rest of those contacts that have switched to Android and iPhone have downloaded BBM as I have and are also very happy it finally came cross-platform.

    Haters gonna hate, even though 6-10 million BBM downloads (in a week) don’t lie. The app is good and really is the only decent cross-platform IM. Sure, I’d like it if all my friends and family would just use Hangouts but many are iPhone users now, so they just won’t. But because they are ex-BlackBerry fans, they will use BBM just because they already know how.

    If you’ve never had BlackBerry and used BBM, you’ll never understand.

    • bitflung

      “If you’ve never had BlackBerry and used BBM, you’ll never understand”.

      thankfully, i’ll never understand :)

  • Crimsonshadow774

    It’s not bad. It’s not great either though. Small list of features, generally fast (but not always) message delivery and no video chat. Its as full featured as a messaging app from 2010.

  • Fel Pe

    BBM? What’s that? O.o

  • Pierfrancesco

    How could be possible all that downloads and stars if the app is just gone out and a lot of people didn’t receive the confirmation email?

  • roiji

    3 – they should have followed Android’s design practices.. or iOS’

  • Averix

    I downloaded it, tried it, and deleted it. I’ve never used BBM and this test proved to me there was little new value to their app for me. So, I’m one of those 5 million downloads, but the app is no longer on my device.

  • Jeff Maxwell

    Someone should do a similar review of the 4-5 star ratings on the iOS App Store and see if the pattern is consistent. I have no idea how to write a script for that though.

  • StayCalm

    agree with you completely… I feel like i’m in the twilight zone reading the reviews… they are all so similar… another thing, the word secure also comes up… how can this even be measured… the word secure or “very secure” in a review seems so strange to me as how can the average person even measure what that means…

  • Adnoxaei

    My boss just suffered an attack on yelp. They listed two thirds of our locations as permanently closed and it took days to fix just that issue. The bad reviews will stick forever. It caused a 60% drop in sales when Google picked it in searches to show “CLOSED” in all caps at the top of searches. I’ve been scrambling to fix all of it as her tech guy, but it’s astoundingly difficult to fix these things. We are now filing claims with everyone we can to take administrative control of foursquare, yelp, Google, yahoo, facebook, etc location listings. It’s costly and slow to do all this…

    Also, any business having issues on yelp should call for advertising help. You get an account manager that can move things along more quickly. They can’t fix weird issues with reviews itself, but malicious changes, claiming locations, and fake pages can be dealt with much more easily.