Several months ago I embarked on an experiment. As a guy who'd used BlackBerry since 2000 I had deep experience with the platform along with good experience on iOS. But I had practically no experience on Android. So I put my Z10 on my bedside table and left it there while I moved my SIM into a Samsung Galaxy S4. At the time it was among the best Android handsets available.
I realize I'm in dangerous territory on CrackBerry when I say this, but unless certain things change it is very unlikely that I'll switch back to BlackBerry. I truly wish this was not the case. I say this because overall I think BlackBerry makes a better device and a better OS. I wish a few things would change to tip the scale back in their favor. But as it stands the major factor keeping me away from BlackBerry is app availability.
I could make the argument complicated and tell you that it's about 3rd party apps AND Google services. But in reality the Google services are apps, and they are available in Google Play. If BlackBerry 10 gave me access to Google's awesome apps along with the selection of Android apps available in the Play store, I'd feel like I had the best of both worlds.
Everyone has their own selection of preferred apps. For me I really enjoy using Sonos for home audio control, Audible for audio books, Voxer for push to talk with my business colleagues and the collection of Google apps such as Now, Maps, Gmail, and Calendar.
As much as I love BlackBerry 10, these apps have collectively become more important to me than the overall OS. In other words I'm willing to deal with a poorer OS experience to have access to these apps.
So I have to wonder what it would take for BlackBerry to just sign a deal with Google to have access to the Play store and all of the awesome Google apps inside it. I can't imagine that BlackBerry would actually need to run the Android OS instead of their QNX-based OS. Samsung and others skin the UI anyway,so why would it really matter if the OS was actually Android or just capable of running Android apps?
I suspect BlackBerry would just have to agree to give Google's apps a certain amount of real estate on the home screen. I don't see this as a bad thing if it fixes the app gap. Let's face it … BlackBerry is not a meaningful player in maps, video, cloud storage, voice assistant, etc. It really would be a win-win deal for BlackBerry, it's customers, and Google. Why not make it happen? What's stopping it?
In the mean time I am dealing with Android. There's no other way to put it. The multitasking is slow. The keyboard is weak (even with Swiftkey installed), the native email app is horrible, and I find that it's overall just a pain in the ass to get things done inside of Android.
I want to go back to BlackBerry, but I won't without a total solution to the app gap. I don't this is a solvable problem if they try to maintain their own app store in isolation.
What do you think, folks? Obviously this can be a touchy (and personal) subject, but I'm curious to read your take.