For better or for worse, BlackBerry isn’t backing down on the road it has taken to support running Android apps on its own mobile platform. The company will actually even step up its game in the next iteration of the BlackBerry OS by adding significant and important features to its Android Runtime compatibility layer.
The update to the Android Runtime in BlackBerry 10.2.1 will include features that will help Android apps integrate better with both BlackBerry hardware and the underlying platform. Android apps will now be able to use a device’s Bluetooth. Unfortunately, Bluetooth LE support is still coming even though native BlackBerry apps can already make use of it. Android apps will be able to make use of shared libraries written in C or C++ as long as these use API supported by Google’s own Native Development Kit. BlackBerry 10’s own share menu will also list Android apps that have registered themselves as recipients of content like they normally do on Android.
Despite this improved support for Android apps, BlackBerry has pretty much made it clear that they are not jumping onto the Android ship, at least for the time being. Just this week, photos circulated around the Internet showing Google Play Store running on the BlackBerry Z10, indicating that the upcoming 10.2.1 OS update will bring Google’s full app ecosystem to BlackBerry. The company immediately denied this and reaffirmed the role of its own BlackBerry World app store as the primary source of apps for its platform and devices.
Still, with an ever-growing support for Android apps on BlackBerry devices, it might just be a matter of time before these apps overtake native apps written with BlackBerry’s APIs. It won’t be a lonely road, however, should it decide to go down this route, as it will be joined by Finnish company Jolla, whose Sailfish OS will also be sporting a similar feature.