Ask any non-BlackBerry smartphone user what features they want the most, and we're sure BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) will be somewhere near the top of the list. BBM, RIM's PIN-based instant-message service made solely for its BlackBerry handsets, has become one of, if not the main selling points for the BlackBerry platform. Ted Livingston realized this while working on the BBM team. Two years ago, he chucked the deuces and left to give the masses what they wanted. The resulting service is called Kik, a new instant-messaging service modeled after BBM. Kik works on the three major smartphone platforms—BlackBerry, iPhone, and Android—and has recently blown the hell up, going from 450,000 users in 10 days to 1.5 million global users in less than a month. It's getting to be kind of a big deal. We downloaded the app and played around with it to see if it was worthy of all the attention it was getting. Check our observations below. And, in case you were wondering: Yes, it's worth it.



More social than gChat or AIM.
•The initial login experience will either piss you off or make you wish all messaging programs acted the same way. After signing up for Kik and punching in your info, the app will scour through your phonebook to see if there's anyone you know that is also using Kik. (When you sign up, it will ask you for your phone number so it can do the same for other new users. Don't worry, it's optional). We can see some people getting alarmed and feeling a bit violated, but we feel it made our integration into the service much, much easier. It added a bunch of people we didn't even know were in our phonebook. If you don't want someone on your buddy list, you can easily delete them. It saved us a bunch of time posting "Add me on Kik!" messages on Twitter and Facebook.



True BBM-like instant messaging.
•The best (or worst, depending on who you ask) part of BBM is the ability to instantly send friends messages, and to see if, and when, they read them. That sort of instantaneous messaging made texting seem archaic, and was the root cause of people going through BBM withdrawal when they switched to another mobile platform. Kik completely mimics the messaging experience of BBM, giving users the ability to instantly send messages, see when other users are typing, and see when their friends have read their messages. It can also receive messages when it's not running, regardless of the platform. This is great for non-iPhone-4 iPhone users, as it uses Apple's push notification to alert you to new messages. Another cool feature is the automated message that lets your friends know that you've read a message but were too busy to respond—great for all the assholes out there. All in all, it blows all other instant-messaging clients out of the water.



Not as feature-filled as BBM...yet.
•While it's able to provide a BBM-like experience, it isn't yet on par with all BBM has to offer. For example, you can't customize anything but the color of your chat bubbles and your display name. You can't send pictures, nor can you send your location or create specific friend groups within your buddy list. However, it's not at all impossible, or even difficult, to add all of those features. Also, it's been reported that there's a whole slew of features in the works, including the ability to stream music or video from your friends' phones on your phone, regardless of the platform they're using.

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