Despite the robustness of its devices and sophistication of its operating system, a lot of users have been staying away from BlackBerry phones. They have one big grouse: the platform does not give access to most of the apps that people like to have on their smartphones these days like Instagram, Zite and the Chrome browser.
But with its new OS upgrade BlackBerry OS 10.2.1, the Canadian smartphone company has opened up its OS to Android apps. No users still can’t go to Google Play and download apps, but a lot of third party apps stores work quite well on the new breed of BlackBerry devices. In fact, BlackBerry has just announced that the next version of its OS will have native access to the Amazon App store. The OS 10.3 version is expected to be available towards the end of the year.
We have written about the new features on BlackBerry 10.2.1. So this time we decided to check out how easy it is to install and run Android apps on a BlackBerry Z30.
There are many options to side-load Android apps on a BlackBerry. Here we look at three and tell you what works best.
OPTION 1: The easiest way is to mail yourself an APK, which can then be downloaded and installed. However, this method strangely had a poor success rate. Worked for me with only one of the five apps I tried.
OPTION 2: Snap, is an app that brings Google Play to a BlackBerry and should hence be the easiest, at least on paper. But we could not get to load the app despite our best attempts.
OPTION 3: We then tried a third party app store called APK Train on the browser. This was the closest one could get to Google Play on the BlackBerry. The app store is clean and easy to use. It has a top apps section as well as a search option. Within minutes I had all the apps I had running on my Android device on the Z30.
The apps downloaded and installed within seconds. Of the dozen-odd apps that I downloaded, I could not get the Google Chrome browser to load. It kept crashing, as if reminding us that it was not made for this platform.
OTHER OPTIONS: You can check out other third party app stores like Amazon to see if it works for you. If it does not, there is always option 3 to fall back on. The good thing here is that there is at least one option that works seamlessly.
PROBLEMS: As these apps are not made for a device that lacks a back and home button, navigation can be a problem. We faced issues with the Zite app as it was quite tough to go one step back.
VERDICT: However, the important point here is that lack of apps is no longer an issue with BlackBerry. It might not be the official route and there might be security issues, but you can still get almost all Android apps to run on your new BlackBerry. This new side to BlackBerry makes is a very lucrative deal, especially at mid-level price points.
So when the new BlackBerry Z3 launches in India early next week, it could end up being a very good phablet option. The phone is priced around Rs 11,000 in Indonesia where it was launched a month back and we expect the price in India to be the same or even a bit lower. Even for those using high-end BlackBerry devices, the side-loading option gives access to apps like Instagram and there is no need to carry a second device for the same.
So you might want to take a new, Android aided, look at BlackBerry devices.