BlackBerry today has added the ability in install Android apps directly onto BlackBerry phones, and though it is a feature the company itself is keeping sort of quiet about, it is definitely worth shouting from the rooftops — especially if you have persevered with the BlackBerry 10 OS until now.
The best part is that installing Android apps is now incredibly easy. If you have the ‘.apk’ file on your handset’s storage, you can tap on it in the File Manager to to launch the installer. It really couldn’t be any simpler.
The tricky part, of course, is where to get the ‘.apk’ files from in the first place. You’re about to find out.
First thing’s first
Before you can get started you have to do two small jobs. Firstly, you have to make sure you have updated your phone to BB OS version 10.2.1. If not, the rest of this article is useless to you. It is a free update available now to all BB 10 devices, so if you don’t have it, go and get it — we’ll wait here for you.
Secondly, you have to change one setting to allow a seamless installation of Android apps.
Go to [Settings] > [App Manager] > [Installing Apps] and switch the toggle to the ‘On’ position.
The other store(s)
If you’re familiar with using Android, you’ve no doubt used the Google Play Store, and chances are you’ve never given any thought to whether there were any alternatives. There happens to be quite a few. We’ll look at two popular choice here; the Amazon App store and 1Mobile.
Amazon App store
Probably the most popular Android app store alternative, the Amazon Store offers a free daily paid-app and a trusted brand to spend money with online. It has a great collection of apps to sift through, including most of the big name apps we could think of — with the exception of Instagram.
The major benefit to using the Amazon Store is that you can set up a trusted credit card link with them and use it to pay for apps and in-app purchases. This isn’t to say that the other stores are less trustworthy necessarily, but it does pay to be cautious when shopping online.
If you’d prefer not to sign into the Amazon App Store, then 1Mobile is another alternative worth considering. It has over 600,000 Android apps available (including Instagram) and benefits from offering lots of curated lists of apps — sort of like the Apple App Store. Some of the lists on display today include Best Games for Samsung Galaxy S4 and Games like Infinity Blade — both cool ideas for segmentation of the market.
What to expect
The process of using these apps to download other apps is pretty straight forward — especially the Amazon store. We found with 1Mobile that it is best to wait in the app window until the download is finished for the most seamless install process, otherwise the .apk files can get lost in the system.
Running Android apps is mostly a positive experience, though it is noticeably slower on a BlackBerry phone. Not slow enough to dissuade you from using them, but not always the slick experience you could expect if you ran the same apps on a Samsung Galaxy S4, or similar.
There is also a persistent BlackBerry task bar that stays active while using Android apps. This is another small quibble, and it shouldn’t get in the way too often, we don’t think.
Other than this, it is smooth sailing. We have successfully logged into a number of our social networks without a hitch, and we are playing some of our favourite Android games on the BlackBerry Z30 between typing these sentences. All in all, this is a very important and exciting day for BlackBerry and its fans.