BlackBerry BBM for Android and iOS launch scuppered by unofficial app release

Graham Cluley

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, there’s more new bad news for BlackBerry.

Hot on the heels of news that the firm is shedding 4,500 workers (approximately 40% of its workforce) and bleak financial results, it was hoping to reignite interest in the company by belatedly releasing its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service for free to iOS and Android users over the weekend.

BBM is coming to Android and iOS

However, the attempted roll-out of the apps to countries around the world has turned into yet another PR disaster, as the firm has been forced to halt the launch after “an unreleased version of the BBM for Android app was posted online”.

BlackBerry’s blog says that the “unreleased version” (an odd terminology, as it clearly *was* released by someone – but perhaps wasn’t supposed to be officially) caused “issues”.

Clearly these unelaborated “issues” were so serious that the firm felt compelled to also withdraw its app from the iOS app store, and suspend the roll out of it and its Android app until a later, undefined, date.

BBM blog

My guess is that BlackBerry may not have been able to cope with the spike of activity hitting its servers.

What seems, in part, to have tripped up BlackBerry is the poorly-policed free-and-easy Google Play Android app store, where multiple BBM apps, posing as official releases, appeared.

Unofficial BBM apps

Unofficial download links to BBM for Android .APKs were also widely distributed on Android forums and social networks, where curious users were keen to try out the software.

BlackBerry says the unoffical release of its BBM app will be disabled, and that those people who did already manage to get their mitts on the iPhone version will be able to continue to use the service.

In time, BlackBerry says it will – eventually – roll out official versions of its Android and iOS BBM apps, in a staggered fashion.

Readers with good memories will recall that this isn’t the first time BlackBerry has had a headache with its Android app. Back in June, over 100,000 people downloaded a fake version of the app from the Google Play store – only to be hit by adware.

Most Android users assume that if an app is in the official Google Play store, it must be official and safe to install on their phone. The truth, sadly, is rather different.

Take care over what apps you install, read the app’s reviews and check that you are familiar with the developer. Ultimately, you get to decide what apps get to run on your Android phone.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

3 Replies to “BlackBerry BBM for Android and iOS launch scuppered by unofficial app release”

  1. Hi Graham,

    I am wondering why you, and many others like you continue to mention the following :

    "What seems, in part, to have tripped up BlackBerry is the poorly-policed free-and-easy Google Play Android app store, where multiple BBM apps, posing as official releases, appeared."

    The security and vetting of the Play store apps had nothing to do with the issues over the weekend. The issue was someone from within Blackberry released the .APK and people started downloading it.

    I would like to hear your thoughts as to what role the Play store played in the 1.1 million people using a .APK released version of BBM for Android.

    1. Maybe someone at BlackBerry did release the .APK before they should have done. One in a long line of goof-ups made by the company.

      But what is clear is that dozens of unauthorised versions of the BBM app appeared in Google's official Android app store, mostly presenting themselves as if they were officially published by BlackBerry.

      More rigorous policing of the Google Play store could have prevented this. But that's not the way Google plays the game…

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