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RIM releases BBM 7 beta with calls over Wi-Fi

Users can also back up their BBM profile so it can be automatically moved to a new BlackBerry smartphone

A new beta version of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) that allows users to make voice calls over Wi-Fi is now available for download, Research In Motion said Tuesday.

The beta version of BBM 7 works on BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry OS version 6 or higher. RIM also plans to support smartphones running BlackBerry OS 5 at a future date, the company said.

With the Voice feature users can talk with BBM contacts across the globe for free over a Wi-Fi connection.

Users can initiate a call directly, or switch from a BBM text chat to voice, and back again. There is a presence feature that shows who is available to receive calls, RIM said.

A split-screen feature also allows users to talk and text at the same time. They can send a picture to their contact while talking with them, check other chats, email, or navigate to other applications while engaged on a voice call.

Another new feature is integration with BlackBerry ID, which allows users to back up their BBM profile, groups and contacts so they can be automatically moved to a new BlackBerry smartphone, including devices running the upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system.

The new operating system, along with two new smartphones running it, will launch on Jan. 30, the company said earlier this week.

The company is hoping BlackBerry 10 -- which has been built from ground up with touch interfaces in mind -- will resuscitate its smartphone sales with features including Balance, allowing users to manage their work and private communications separately on the same device.

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