Probably one of the best things about the steadily improving BlackBerry OS 10, was the addition of the ability to side load Android apps thanks to apps like Snap
and 1Mobile Market.
While the use of Android apps to supplement it’s oft criticized BlackBerry World is a good stopgap measure, it should by no means be the answer to popular apps that are still missing from the in-house app store for a number of reasons.
First and foremost is pride in ownership. Every time I go to BlackBerry world to get an app, the first thing I look for is the “Made For BlackBerry” logo. In the same way that “Made In America” equates to high quality in some minds, the same principal is at work with me when it comes to apps for my Z10. In my mind that tells me the app was made with the BlackBerry OS in mind and will work smoothly and have (hopefully) less issues with compatibility with the hardware than an app that doesn’t have that logo. Not to mention there is some sense of pride when my Android and Apple loving friends start bragging about an app and I can not only show them the same app on my Z10, but point out that my version of the app was specifically “Made for BlackBerry”.
Android apps on a BlackBerry while functional aren’t exactly the best running thing you could install on your phone. Depending on which BB 10 device you have, the experience of running side-loaded apps runs the gamut from “can’t tell it’s an Android app” to “get this thing off of my phone”. And as BlackBerry continues to produce “emerging market” phones with hardware specs you’d expect in an entry-level phone, in my opinion the side load app experience will become a sore point with BlackBerry users. From my personal experience using an STL-2 model Z10 running 10.2.1, what is normally a snappy phone runs like my old Pearl 8100 when it comes to loading most of my Android apps. Not to mention the ‘will it or won’t it crash” start up adventures I go through sometimes. I can imagine the experience only gets worse on a Q5 or the recently announced Z3. Conversely the side-loaded app experience will be better on a Z30 or the recently announced Q20. No one wants to upgrade their phone and have it perform speed wise, like the one they just got rid of. To a normal user like myself it would seem to me that the same apps, made specifically for BlackBerry would eliminate that problem if not completely, to a point that any performance degradation on an emerging market phone versus a flagship phone would be less noticeable. Battery life is another issue I’ve noticed with side-loaded apps. They don’t seem to treat the battery in my Z10 as kindly as regular BlackBerry apps do. This could be a critical factor in the emerging market phones where the battery is not replaceable.
Being able to advertise that certain popular apps come pre loaded or are available at BlackBerry world for download on a new BB10 phone would be another advantage in the selling wars. I’m of the opinion that a lot of smart phone owners are scared of change. They get with a phone, get used to certain apps they use every day and feel a certain sense of security that those same apps will be there when it comes time to upgrade their phone. That is a relatively significant problem when trying to get people to make the jump from Android or Apple to BlackBerry. The light in their eyes when you tell them they can get those apps on a new BB10 phone dims a bit when you start to explain side loading. Every review of a new BlackBerry phone I read raves about the screen size, usefulness of the OS and battery life versus Apple and Android, but knock the lack of apps that people want and recognize at the App Store. Even the BlackBerry hating BGR.com ran a favorable piece about someone who switched from his iPhone 5S to a BlackBerry Z30 for a week.
The test subject raved about how much better the Z30 was in just about every aspect except one, the availability of apps that he used on a daily basis. And that was the reason he said he’d stick with his 5S. If ever there was a concrete reason why BlackBerry needs to spread some of their newly infused capital into relationships with app designers, there it is. BlackBerry needs to be able to advertise the fact that the apps you know and love on your old phone is right here waiting in your new phone.
Now don’t get me wrong, side loading and the use of the Android store can and will be very useful to get BlackBerry heading back in the right direction as I’ve said in the past. But the improvement of and availability of apps shouldn’t and can’t end there if BlackBerry is to regain any of its lost market share. I will continue to use side loading when necessary and always continue to encourage/hope/pray for more of the popular apps to wear the “Made for BlackBerry” label in the near future. There’s an old adage that says “A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. Well, the way to a smart phone user’s heart (and wallet) is through the app store. We’ve got the hardware to compete, now it’s time to make an app store worth of the phones and the people BlackBerry wants using their products.