When BlackBerry 10 launched one of the key features for developers was the ability to port their apps directly from the Android .apk package straight to BlackBerry 10. Before the launch of the BlackBerry OS the company held port-a-thons across the world, where developers were given assistance in porting apps to BlackBerry 10 which resulted in over 70 000 apps being available at the launch in January 2013. The momentum didn’t stop there though, within 6 months at the BlackBerry Live conference in Orlando, BlackBerry announced that they had added 50 000 applications to the store. While the numbers in and of themselves are impressive BlackBerry has stated that around 20% of the marketplace (around 30 000 apps) is made up of Android ported applications and yet even still many of the apps that many smartphone users harp on about including the likes of Instagram are nowhere to be found on the platform. Why?
The problem with porting apps to BlackBerry was that the runtime environment only allowed apps from Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread to run on BlackBerry 10. This meant that developers would be unable to use many of the features and performance improvements that the later versions of the Android platform brought with it. With the announcement yesterday that BlackBerry 10.2’s SDK includes the ability to run apps from Android 4.2.2 it could be time for BlackBerry’s evangelists to contact the app developers who were apprehensive about joining the platform initially and attempt a second round of negotiations in an effort to perhaps bring more of the most popular apps and games from the Android ecosystem to BlackBerry.
There is still a case to be made that ported apps are buggy on the BlackBerry 10 platform and that BlackBerry would be better served in attempting to get the major app developers to code native BlackBerry apps instead, but if you look at an app like Instagram, they were a company of 6 before they were acquired by Facebook and only would not have had the manpower to dedicate a full team to BlackBerry. The truth is if an application gained enough traction as an Android port developers would be hard pressed to not code a native application for the platform.
I spoke to Danny Nochumson from dailyhomes.co.za who reiterated the point saying “We developed our BB10 app in Android and ported it over, primarily because of time constraints, our developers weren’t familiar with the BB10 native API and we had heavy deadlines. Additionally there was the huge benefit of having an Android app as well. That being said though, there are huge benefits to going native and having access to all the great features that open up to your app with native dev. Sometime down the line I would like to redevelop the app in native BB10 as I believe we can make it a lot better, but going the Android route was a great way to get up and running fast and cost effectively”
The question still remains: Could Android be the saviour of the BlackBerry platform? All indications would suggest that if the new Android run time gives similar application performance to what an Android device would offer the same user then Android could be the driving force behind the rebirth of one of the companies responsible for the smartphone revolution.