How BlackBerry managed to get 70,000 apps on BB10, overnight?

Posted on Feb 4 2013 - 1:32pm by Abhi Bavishi

bb10-apps_1How on earth can BlackBerry manage to get 70,000 apps on BB10 even before the launch of the device? Even if you buy the argument that BlackBerry got an army of developers to get the humungous amount of coding done, its hard to accept the fact that it managed to get so many apps, in such a narrow span of time, without launching a single BB10 device in the market.

The Truth

The truth, however, is this- BlackBerry offered great porting tools that could decompile any existing Android APK file, and can configure it to work with its new platform. Matter-of-factly, more than 40% of apps on the BlackBerry store are nothing but repackaged APKs. So, nearly 28,000 of the total 70,000 apps on BlackBerry’s store are actually Android apps.

That’s not a bad thing, to be very frank.

The tactic used by BlackBerry may seem deceitful as it cashes on the popularity, wide-reach, and the number of apps on the Play Store to sprout more apps for its native platform. However, it’s a canny move by the Canadian manufacturer.

It not only managed to get a large number of apps on the Play Store, but it also impressed developers who were overwhelmed to know that their apps could now be on two different app stores without recoding it from scratch.

How they did it?

BlackBerry UX designer Don Lindsay explained to PcMag how Android apps got onto BlackBerry 10, with its different, gesture-based interface. He explains that they merely ‘wrapped’ the existing Android apps to suit the BlackBerry platform. As BB10 phones do not have a “Back” or “Menu” button, they had to stick with the gestures. This is how it worked. For example, the “Menu” button on Android was ported to BB 10 as an ‘up-swipe’ gesture. Similarly, the “Back” button on Android was mapped with a back-swipe gesture. Hence, just by changing the controls, they got apps to work from one platform to another.

However, BlackBerry vice president, Mr. Martyn Mallick, said that their primary goal is not to run Android apps on BlackBerry platform. Though these apps may run on BB10 platforms, some user interfaces, navigation schemes, menu bars, or dialog boxes do not feel right. Hence, there’s a strong need to develop apps that have been specially built to suit BB 10 devices.

“From the beginning, our focus has been to get native applications built for BlackBerry 10,” Mallick said.

BlackBerry is now targeting the top 100-200 apps in terms of usage in every country it serves, and is working keenly with developers to get them ported to the new platform. They are also looking to bring in all the popular brands and services on BB10. While most of the highly acclaimed apps like WhatsApp, Skype, New York Times, and others have already paved their way into BB10’s new platform, considering BlackBerry’s tenacious efforts, maybe, we could also see more missing apps like Netflix, and Instagram on BB10’s app store by the time BB10 devices get launched in the US markets.

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About the Author

Abhi is a tech-writer, a software engineer, a photographer, a traveler, and a coffee-lover. He’s passionate about everything that’s even remotely digital. He portrays his obsession with tech-toys in his reviews and articles. You can connect with him at [email protected] Don’t worry. We checked. He doesn’t bite.