Everyone is curious to get a glimpse of what it’s like using the first Android-powered BlackBerry. Thankfully, by downloading BlackBerry’s launcher and other custom software, you can find out, without spending several hundred dollars on a phone…
Obviously, you’re not going to be able to just download BlackBerry’s keyboard, launcher and other apps from the Play Store. Instead, you’ll need to download some APKs from this XDA Developers forum. There are risks attached to downloading stuff from non-official sources, so be sure to take that in to account before attempting this, as we can’t take responsibility if your phone starts playing up. If you do decide to go with it, you’ll need to be sure you’ve gone in to your security settings to allow apps from any source to be installed.
It’s worth noting, I’m using a Nexus 6 running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop to test these, and you might experience entirely different issues to me depending on which phone you use. There were many apps I couldn’t get to work, like the BlackBerry HUB, Camera and Contacts apps, among others. It wasn’t for lack of effort. I rooted my phone and attempted to install them, but sadly failed. However, I did get the most important stuff: BlackBerry Launcher, keyboard and calendar.
Turning to the keyboard, this is an Android based version of the keyboard launched in BlackBerry 10 OS a couple of years ago. You can use Swype-like gestures to type if you like, or type as normal and select predicted words by swiping up on the letter where the predictions pop up. Once you get used to it, it can be really quick, but it takes a little time to become familiar. The keys are nice and big, and well-separated by virtual frets running across the screen, mimicking the metal frets found on BlackBerry phones.
The Launcher itself is where it’s at though. The app drawer splits in to three sections: Apps, widgets and shortcuts. Shortcuts are pretty awesome, they’re basically 1×1 icons you apply to the screen to give you quick actions. So you can, for instance, instantly compose a message or BBM, check your battery level or set an alarm. There are dozens of options. It also comes with the stock PRIV wallpapers to choose from, all of which are varying shades of blue and look fantastic on large QHD resolution displays.
Another cool PRIV launcher feature is the pop-up widgets. If an app has widgets available, you swipe up or down on that app’s icon on the home screen, and it’ll show a widget. If there is more than one widget available, you choose which one you want, and from then on it displays that almost full-screen widget every time. This could be a large pop-up window showing your Gmail inbox, calendar events for the day or your messages.
As an added bonus to make the experience a little more authentic, I had to install the BBM app too. Which, of course, is available from the Play Store for free.
Once setup, you practically have the Blackberry PRIV software experience on your Android phone. It’s not complete, and having used it, I hope BlackBerry makes all of its software available to download officially from the Play Store. If only just to make sure all Android users, experienced or not, can take a look at some of the company’s great software. I like what I see so far, if anything, it’s made me want to buy a PRIV.