Will a shot of Android be enough to save BlackBerry?

Will a shot of Android be enough to save BlackBerry?

Summary: BlackBerry is a sick company. Will a dose of Android apps give it a shot at health?


Believe it or not, it wasn't that long ago that Nokia and BlackBerry were the top two smartphone companies. Indeed, in 2006, in a preemptive move against the NTP patent troll, the Department of Justice asked that BlackBerry's services be kept going even if NTP won their case. Seven years later most of us are just wondering how long the company can stay alive.

Can Android apps save BlackBerry?

BlackBerry hasn't given the ghost up yet. Besides finding a new CEO, BlackBerry is embracing Android apps.

In a technical blog posting, BlackBerry announced that its  "Android Runtime team [is] bringing many new improvements to the runtime, such as support for Jelly Bean 4.2.2, hardware acceleration and performance updates."

Specifically, BlackBerry 10.2.1 — the next release of the BlackBerry operating system — will include the following features:

  • Android Native Support: Android apps that use shared libraries written in native-code, such as C and C++, will now be supported on BlackBerry 10. Support is limited to the recommended Android NDK toolset system headers and application programming interfaces (APIs). Headers and APIs outside this scope may not function correctly.
  • Bluetooth: Android applications using Android Bluetooth APIs will now work on BlackBerry 10. Bluetooth Low Energy for Android is planned to be supported in a future OS release. As a reminder, Bluetooth LE is supported in the BlackBerry 10 Native/Cascades software development kit (SDK).
  • MapView v1: Applications that use MapView from Google Maps v1 API are now supported using OpenStreetMaps. Support for MapView v2 API is being planned for a future release.
  • Share Framework: Android applications that register with the share framework in Android will now also appear as share targets on the BlackBerry 10 share menu.
  • Spellcheck: Android applications that use text input can now leverage support for spell checking and correction, and the ability to add words to the BlackBerry 10 dictionary.

The real news here is support for NDK and 4.2.2. Earlier, BlackBerry couldn't support either one and this made porting modern Android apps to the platform a major headache.

In addition, developers will be able to write headless Android apps. These are apps that run in the background and don't require an open Active Frame to function. This, in turn, means that Android apps on BlackBerry will take up less memory and run faster.

If all goes well, BlackBerry will be able support most, but not all, modern Android programs. With fewer and fewer developers spending their time programming for the declining native Blackberry OS, BlackBerry desperately needs Android apps.

At the same time, Alec Saunders, VP of developer relations, told CrackBerry that BlackBerry is not "backing away from native developers." BlackBerry users will also still need to sideload Android apps. The company told CrackBerry that "There is no planned support for Google Play on BlackBerry."

Maybe BlackBerry would have been better off if they had just embraced Android when it became clear that Android was going to be the most popular mobile operating system in the world. It's too late to cry about that now.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. While it's too late to dump BlackBerry OS for Android, maybe a dose of Android apps is what BlackBerry needs to reclaim the number three mobile operating system spot. BlackBerry may never be a giant again, but with some Android it may at least survive for another decade.

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Mobile OS, BlackBerry, Smartphones, Tablets

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  • Yes BB is on the right track to a strong come back!

    I absolutely love my Z10 even without all those apps. Most people were not ready to give BB10 a chance becasue of the gap in their gaps, now at least they can pick up the phone and see how good it is for themselves.
    Amazing OS, solid device and now it has all those apps that they wanted, what else do you need?
    Macy John
    • Agreed

      I concur.
    • Me too. The gesture base interface particularly works well in a car.

      I use my BB as my GPS and as my music player for my Sync enabled Ford truck. No buttons to press makes it much easier to use in that environment.

      I think QNX has the potential to be a better foundation than android/linux. It is already heavily used in the automotive industry as an industrial RTOS controlling the automobile's emission control systems.

      It could be improved a bit. I would love better battery life, more processor HP for games an even better camera.
    • Not a true Android Device with Google Experience?

      Not interested.
      Troy Fergus
      • That means

        you're not interested in any phones that aren't google branded.
        Jacob VanWagoner
    • All BB needs now is

      the Blackberry Play Store, where they can sell all those android appsdirectly to their clients. The developpers won't need to port anything, just submit them.
  • Will a shot of Android be enough to save BlackBerry?

    • For once I agree with Lovey

      No Google Play, no deal.
    • always

      FOSS brings riches to the adopters
      LlNUX Geek
      • Huh?!

        Most Android apps are proprietary.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • He's a jack wagon

          just ignore him. He was on his smoke break from McDonalds.
      • So far only for Samsung.

        And certainly no where near the riches that Apple gets (highly proprietary).

        And android apps are not required to be FOSS and most probably aren't. Note that Google itself does not entirely subscribe to FOSS as it has closely guarded code (which makes most of its money).

        If you compare the money that FOSS companies make compared to proprietary it is probably close to 2 orders of magnitude less.
      • put a fork in blackberry

        its done. android would just make it die faster
        NoMore MicrosoftEver
    • how about a shot of windows phone emulation on blackberry, loverock?

      maybe that would save it then?
      • What ?

        Emulate the fat bot boy running at the back who is having to spend beeeelionons just to keeps sight of the pack ?
        Alan Smithie
  • Time to...

    Dump the BB OS and just put the full Android OS on all BlackBerries!
    • Try a new meme

      Because going Android has worked so well for HTC, Sony, Motorola, Huawei, and pretty much everyone outside of Samsung....
      • Right

        Right, because who's ever heard of the HTC One, or the Sony Xperia Z1, or the Motorola X
        Shane Hudson
        • Well ...

          HTC's CEO recently resigned to due poor financials resulting from poor smartphone sales. This is a little too much like BlackBerry (formerly, RIM).

          Sony Ericsson apparently believes that it can make more money suing Google with Nortel's patents than it can manufacturing and selling Android based smartphones. Note that Sony Ericsson is a member of the Open Handset Alliance (for Android).
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • @Rabid Howler Monkey

            Right on point. +1
            Ram U