I have a confession to make. Brace yourselves.
I like Android apps on BlackBerry 10.
There, I said it. But before you go locking me in the stocks and chucking rotten tomatoes at me, just hear me out.
Back when the PlayBook wasnít even in our sweaty, eager hands rumours were abound that there would be an Android Player for the PlayBook. This would let us capitalise on all of those desirable Android apps out there if the developer might not want to create a PlayBook app. In fact, back then there was a more solid rumour that there would be a BlackBerry Player that would let us run classic BlackBerry apps on the PlayBook.
Fast forward to today and things havenít quite turned out the way that we had hoped.
The BlackBerry Player was unceremoniously canned, but the Android player did emerge. It was late, but it arrived. And it brought a number of Android apps to BlackBerry World. But letís just say that they werenít quite up to scratch. As consumers - we wanted all the top-name apps that were missing from the PlayBook lineup: Kindle, Skype, WhatsApp and others. Where were they? Why did they keep away from the PlayBook?
A whole community sprang up, grabbing the Android apps (APKs) and converting them to PlayBook apps. Kindle could be installed! Google Maps could be installed! Yay! But there were other problems.
Android is a runtime within an operating system - as such there was a performance issue. The PlayBook would deliver some apps beautifully, in fact they would run better than some Android smartphones - but they didnít add up to much against native PlayBook apps. The other problem was that a number of apps use native code, which means that the program would be specifically written to work with Android in a way that the PlayBook couldn't understand. Skype was out of the question now.
So, Android apps appeared throughout BlackBerry World, and even though a void was being filled - there was a clear sign that a lot of poor and mediocre Android apps had made it across while the quality ones shied away. Android apps were treated with some derision from PlayBook owners due to their laggy performance and not-quite-native feel about them.
So here we are today my friends, and Iím asking you all to look into your hearts and forgive the misgivings of those Android apps. BlackBerry 10 has appeared in the form of the Z10. And I can say with utmost certainty, the experience with Android apps is much, much better than those early days on the PlayBook. The Android team at BlackBerry have had the time to refine the system, improve it and enhance it.
And as much as you might not like Android apps running on your wonderful BlackBerry, we have to accept that from a developerís perspective - right now - itís a lot of effort to create BlackBerry 10 apps as well as iOS and Android apps.
To cite a real life example, Iím in a discussion to create an app with an Android developer. Naturally, he wants to use Android code and keep it working nicely on Android handsets. My options are to tie his hands and force him to use HTML so I can have an easy port onto other platforms, or settle on an Android app that I can test with BB10 and see how well it will work. The decision is simple, despite being a solid BlackBerry user - Iím going to have to port this app. On a very limited budget and people giving up their free time to make it happen it just doesnít make sense to insist on additional apps.
In this example, BlackBerry trumps iOS and Windows Phone, as these will have to settle for HTML apps down the line, which probably wonít have the features of the Android app - we just donít have the resources to rewrite an app for multiple platforms.
BlackBerry made a questionable move by bringing Android apps to the PlayBook and BlackBerry 10 - but I think itís one that will pay off. In an app-centric ecosystem, we cannot expect every app developer to make a dedicated app for the #3 smartphone out there (and BlackBerry 10 isnít there yet!)
What we hope is that when those developers see the support from BlackBerry 10 owners, they are going to be swayed into making that native app that we want and find that it is in their interest to bring a better app experience to Team BlackBerry. And that will only happen if we use those apps and give the developers positive feedback.
Until then, lets be happy that through the Android player, we will have apps that have the maturity of being developed on another platform on our phones right from the beginning. Remember,
Donít Be A Snob. Love Apps.