Cape Town - BlackBerry has announced that the BlackBerry Messenger service now supports voice calls over a Wi-Fi network for older devices.
"BlackBerry has announced that BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) version 7.0.1, which features voice chatting over a Wi-Fi connection, is now available for BlackBerry smartphones running the BlackBerry 5 OS," the company said in a statement.
The Canadian-based company is driving to assure users of its older smartphones that they will not be abandoned following the launch of the BlackBerry 10 platform.
The new platform does not offer the unlimited BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) that defined the brand, particularly in developing markets where the cost of data remains a barrier to mass adoption of smartphones.
"By bringing BBM version 7 with BBM Voice to customers running BlackBerry 5 OS smartphones, we really broaden the base of people who can connect with each other, especially in many of our emerging markets where BBM is the leading player," said TA McCann, vice president of BBM and Social Communities at BlackBerry.
Skype has long been a market leader in offering internet voice and video calls, but in recent times, companies like Google have been moving to offer alternatives.
BBM is facing increasing competition from alternative chat applications such as Whatsapp and newcomer in SA, WeChat.
BlackBerry offers video calling on the BlackBerry 10 platform and the voice offer on BBM may spur users to adopt the service as a way to avoid call costs.