Earlier today BlackBerry began its official rollout of BlackBerry OS 10.2.1 around the globe. All carriers — even those in the USA — should have it pushed out to BlackBerry 10 device owners by the end of February.
It's a great update that includes lots of productivity enhancements as well as BlackBerry OS throwback features that are sure to please legacy BlackBerry users. For the full list of what's new, I encourage you to check out the BlackBerry 10.2.1 change log. Especially for those in the USA who never received the 10.2 update, you're going to LOVE the whack load of new features coming at you.
With this move, the longstanding BlackBerry "app gap" has effectively been closed
Looking at today's official BlackBerry 10.2.1 announcement, however, BlackBerry omitted mentioning one feature, which in reality is probably the single most exciting feature in the 10.2.1 update. That is the ability to install Android apps, also known as Android .apk files, directly onto a BlackBerry 10 phone. With this move the longstanding BlackBerry "app gap" has effectively been closed. With a little time and effort, you can find almost all of the apps you've been wanting on your BlackBerry but just have not been available via BlackBerry World. Instagram, Netflix, SiriusXM, Candy Crush, Fitbit - they're now all just a few taps away.
It's HUGE news for BlackBerry, but right now it's news that isn't being broadcast, at least officially. The reason? Well, I believe it's the little time and effort I mentioned above. The end user experience in getting all these Android apps loaded up onto your BB10 phone isn't quite good enough yet for BlackBerry to yell it out from the top of the mountain. As it stands, there isn't just one place they can point their marketing muscle at where you can go and get all your apps downloaded in a simple and smooth experience.
For those willing to invest a little time and effort, it's really not that difficult (see the links at the end of this post) to track down and install the Android apps you want, but it's still a bit of a workaround solution compared to a native one. And not all Android apps are currently supported on BlackBerry 10. One of the current limitations is that Google Services are not supported in the Android runtime on BlackBerry 10.2.1. This means apps that leverage Google services will not work properly right now.
It's crystal clear that this message of Android app support on BlackBerry 10 is a message that the company both needs and wants to get out there
The good news is that in the world of Android there are third party app stores outside of the Google Play store, and these stores make it easier to browse and find compatible apps for your BlackBerry 10 phone. For example, the Amazon app store is highly curated and is essentially free of apps that use Google Services - this means upwards of 95% of the Android apps in the Amazon app store will work on your BB10 phone. And, you can load the Amazon store right up onto your phone to begin with.
It's crystal clear that this message of Android app support on BlackBerry 10 is a message that the company both needs and wants to get out there. If you're an existing owner, you definitely want. And knowing that app support is there could help sell a lot more BlackBerry 10 phones in 2014, given that lack of apps has been the most commonly cited BB10 complaint to date.
I'm sure that when the moment is right, and BlackBerry is comfortable with where things are at, that they will broadcast this message loudly. In the meantime, it's on us to spread the word to all BlackBerry 10 users and would-be users out there. So let's do just that!