BlackBerry has confirmed that it has begun testing a mobile transfer feature alongside its BlackBerry Messenger service in Indonesia. The move was first announced in December 2012, but the company has stressed that it is being considered for emerging markets, rather than the US or Europe.
Bloomberg reports that the Canadian mobile-maker, which launched its long-awaited new BlackBerry 10 platform at the end of January, is working with Indonesia’s Bank Permata — which includes Standard Chartered among its shareholders — to test a feature to transfer money between friends via the messaging service.
A representative at PT Bank Permata said the service could pick up “a few hundred thousand users” over the course of next year, but BlackBerry doesn’t expect it would be a hit in western markets, as T.A. McCann, vice president of BlackBerry Messenger, explained:
Is somebody going to buy a BlackBerry in the United States because it potentially has got BBM Money? No. Would they buy it in Indonesia because of BBM Money? Maybe, but in that case we have lots of reasons why they want to have a BlackBerry, and BBM is one of them.
Indonesia is proving to be a popular test bed for payment payment services, since it is estimated that fewer than 1 million of its 249 million population own credit cards. Off the back of that potential, VC-backed Coda Payments partnered operator Axis to introduce a pay-by-SMS service that turns any phone into a payment terminal.
BlackBerry remains well used in Indonesia, to the point that Android — which is growing fast across Asia — only overtook it as the most used platform in the country in September 2012. Previous estimates last year had suggested that 53.5 percent of smartphones sold in Indonesia were BlackBerry devices, though it is likely that Android is now top of the smartphone pile.
BBM is a key part of the new BlackBerry operating system — its first device, the Z10, is likely to go on sale in Indonesia sometime in March — and the messaging service is a core part of its central hub. Though this trial is for older devices, BlackBerry is seeking to take the service beyond just chat, as McCann further explained to Bloomberg:
BBM was traditionally thought of as just a chat client. [With the addition of video to the messaging service and now BBM Money,] we’re really trying to work hard to show clear examples of how we’re expanding BBM well beyond just chat.
McCann added that trial could lead to “all kinds of different expansion whether it be additional banks, addition countries, additional devices and of course all kinds of functionality”, but the focus will remain on enabling users in emerging markets.
In December, RIM announced that BBM had 60 million active users who send ‘billions’ of messages each day and, though rivalled by chat apps in Asia, it continues to hold market share in Asia and the Middle East, in particular.
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