by Al Sacco

Some Perspective on Android Apps for BlackBerry 10

Mar 12, 20133 mins
AndroidEnterprise ApplicationsMobile's Al Sacco shares his opinions on ported Android apps for the BlackBerry 10 OS and what they mean to BlackBerry 10 users.

In a recent story I shared the opinions of a number of BlackBerry Z10 users on ported Android apps on BlackBerry 10, and also offered a BlackBerry developer evangelist’s take on the same subject. Here’s my own take, which falls somewhere in between.

BlackBerry Z10 smartphone   front and rear
BlackBerry Z10 smartphone front and rear (Image Credit: Brian Sacco)

I’ve been using a BlackBerry Z10 for about a month now, and I’ve downloaded tons of applications. (Check out my list of the best BlackBerry 10 apps.)  Like most BlackBerry 10 users, I much prefer native applications to ported Android versions that cannot get the most out of BlackBerry 10.

After spending some time with well-designed and functional apps like’s CB10 or BeWeather 10 it’s clear just how much more users could be getting from their BlackBerry 10 apps. And unfortunately, many of the high-profile apps popular on other platforms are ports and not native. (BlackBerry tells me that less than 20 percent of all applications in BlackBerry World are ported and roughly 70 percent are native. The remaining percentage is presumably made up of Web apps that run in the browser.)

However, I do see some differences in performance between native apps and Android ported apps, though most are negligible. I use an Android device in addition to my Z10, and Android apps clearly run better on their native OS than on the Android runtime in BlackBerry 10. There’s a good reason for that. My Samsung Galaxy SIII runs Android 4.1.1 Ice Cream Sandwich, and the BlackBerry Android runtime is an earlier version of Google’s mobile OS. Regardless, it’s difficult for me not to see a difference between native BlackBerry apps, native Android apps and ported software, and the differences in performance reflect negatively on the ported Android apps.

That said, I agree with Tom Anderson, Senior BlackBerry Developer Evangelist and a Z10 user, who contends that BlackBerry’s Android runtime strategy is a good one. It’s a great way to let developers experiment with the OS to see if it has potential without investing too much time or energy. If BlackBerry 10 is well received during the coming six months or a year, many of the developers who ported Android apps will likely take the next step and go native, as is BlackBerry’s design.

The problem is that BlackBerry 10’s future is still uncertain, so it’s only prudent for companies and developers to take it slow with the new OS. The BlackBerry Z10 isn’t even available yet in the United States—it should available through most major carrier by the end of this month. And BlackBerry promises some additional notable applications will be released after the U.S. launch.

But only time will tell, and I think loyal BlackBerry users are losing patience. I know I am. This creates a “Catch 22″—potential users might not want to embrace BlackBerry 10 without the apps they know and love, but the app makers may not want to embrace the new OS either until they know the users and potential customers are buying BlackBerry 10 devices.

Bottom line: One of BlackBerry 10’s greatest strengths is the fact that it feels fresh, unique and unlike iOS and Android. Ported Android apps make BlackBerry 10 feel more like Android. They are not built for BlackBerry and don’t accurately show just how cool BlackBerry 10 apps can be.

However, Android apps are definitely a good thing for BlackBerry 10in that they are certainly better than nothing. And if users take to the new OS like BlackBerry hopes they do, more and more quality native BlackBerry 10 apps will be released, making this whole debate less of an issue.