Investing and technology forums went abuzz when Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and (its subsidiary) WhatsApp decided to pull their API support for the BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY) platform very recently. While some considered the move to be a huge blow for BlackBerry, others pretty much declared the death of BB10 platform. The response was negative altogether. After all, such a development has the potential to trigger a mass exodus of frustrated BlackBerry users.
Shortly after, BlackBerry published a blog post wherein it heavily promoted a new third party app for Facebook and hailed it as a "powerful alternative" for the discontinued native Facebook app. The Face10 app offers far more features and is reported to work better than the native app. But the big question at hand is: Can the third party app control the damage caused by Facebook's discontinuation of support for Blackberry? Let's look at the technical aspects and evaluate the prospects of this development using a pros and cons list.
- Let me start by saying that Face10 pulls data using the APIs made available by Facebook, compiles it in his application, and presents it in the form of a user friendly format. There are both paid and free versions of the Face10 app out of which the former currently costs $2.99 and offers features - such as hub integration, multiple accounts and the option to download videos - that weren't originally there in the native app. So basically, the app not only fills a void but also offers more functionality.
- Facebook has historically supported third party development so the creation of Face10 app perfectly lines up with the social networking giant's product direction. As those APIs continue to be developed, the Face10 app could also bring in enhancements to it's feature list and value proposition.
- The Face10 app is built on something called as native cascades, which reportedly make the app about 10 times faster than the native Facebook app, that was originally built by BlackBerry. Users are promised a speedy experience which should in theory keep consumer satisfaction high.
- After Facebook pulled its API support for BlackBerry, users were forced to access the social network via it's relatively inferior mobile webpage, or migrate to a well-rounded but third party app such as Face10. This major shift worked in Face10's favor; BlackBerry reported last month that the third party app had garnered more than 18 million downloads already. The app appears to have gained a lot of traction and users in general have noted that it actually works better than the native Facebook app.
Granted that the prospects over the app look very compelling on paper. But there are some major downsides to it which could prevent it from becoming a large-scale Facebook replacement.
- First of all, BlackBerry users are generally security conscious. The idea of having a third party app gaining access to your Facebook handle may not go well with most BB10 users. After all, most users are still on the BlackBerry platform for it's reputation in the online security domain.
- Also the developer of Face10 scored poorly the last time his apps were tested for security. According to a web security analysis conducted by File Archive Haven, apps submitted by Nemory Studios were marked as high-risk. The developer subsequently submitted a lengthy response in his defense but fact of the matter is security conscious users quickly lose faith in brands after reading such reports.
- It's also worth noting that the Face10 app is only for the BB10 platform. Users who are still using BB7-devices won't receive the app and they'll have to either use Facebook's mobile webpage for their everyday needs or abandon the OS altogether. This basically suggests to us that the third party app won't be able to contain the exodus of BB7-based users.
- A major downside is that such an approach can't be used to introduce a third party app for WhatsApp. Facebook discourages third party apps for WhatsApp. This was made clear when developers of the instant messaging app started awarding temporary bans to the users of WhatsApp Plus (a third party app). This pretty much means that WhatsApp users will have no option but to abandon the BlackBerry platform once Facebook pulls support for the instant messaging app by 2016-end.
Putting it all together
The 18 million download count was published last month so it's fitting to say that the number would've only inflated by now. The download figure is pretty high considering that BlackBerry managed to sell only 10.2 million handsets over the past 2 years collectively. Clearly BlackBerry users aren't leaving the mobile platform otherwise the download count wouldn't have been so high.
These download figures also lead me to believe that BlackBerry users in general are probably not aware of the security risks presented by the Face10 app or they just don't care when it comes to Facebook.
However, I do believe that we'll witness a mass exodus by BlackBerry users once Facebook completely pulls the plug on WhatsApp support by the end of 2016. The anti-third-party-app stance by WhatsApp will prevent a Face10-like fix from appearing in the BlackBerry World app store. People's workflow will get disrupted and that might eventually encourage them to switch to Android or iOS platforms.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.