Thursday, July 9, 2015

BlackBerry going all-in on Android could save its phone business

BlackBerry isn’t a name you hear mentioned in the mobile space anymore. It’s strange, since they used to be one of the biggest names in the smartphone industry, but like Kodak’s reign over photography, stagnancy deprecates relevance, and BlackBerry quickly fell by the wayside with the rise in popularity of the iPhone and similar products.

Sure, they’ve picked back up a bit with BlackBerry 10, but with less than 1% market share, the company’s certainly fallen from its former dominance. Lately we’ve been seeing rumors going around that BlackBerry may be considering making an Android handset, and that might just be the best move for the company in ages.

Putting Android onto a BlackBerry-made phone could bring a lot of benefits to the consumers. For one, BlackBerry 10 simply hasn’t seen the app development of the bigger platforms, and though the company tried to supplement this with Android app support, anyone who’s tried it in real life can tell you that it’s not the most elegant solution. On top of the starkly different interface when switching between BlackBerry and Android apps, there are a lot of compatibility issues to be wary of, one of the biggest of which is the lack of push support for notifications, rendering messaging apps like Hangouts much less useful. Having full-blown Android would mean having full-blown Android apps, and that’s a big win for the end user.

Offering an Android-powered BlackBerry would also instantly pull in existing Android users who simply don’t want to bother with the hassle of switching platforms. This would not only be a nice boost in users, but a great opportunity for BlackBerry to familiarize newcomers to some of its unique products and services. Services like BlackBerry Hub, which to this day is one of the best notification centers around, and could likely be implemented into Android without much work in a BB10-esque custom interface (Nobody said it had to be stock Android, eh?). BlackBerry also has an ace to play in security, one of the company’s biggest hesitations with Android. BlackBerry has been trying to push its Enterprise Server 12 to users of all major platforms without much success, and including it as a preinstalled app could introduce the service and its security advantages to new users.

Of course, there are some complications involved with making an Android phone as well. Offering devices on two completely different platforms could cause confusion among consumers and extra workload for developers (then again, if the Android-powered BlackBerry were a direct port onto existing hardware, say the Z30, the possibility could arise of a dual-booting phone, which would be sweeeet). Android phones are also a dime a dozen, and standing out in such a crowd would take more than a physical keyboard or Enterprise solutions. A BlackBerry running on Android would likely do well with the business-oriented, but to strike in with the general consumer and bring BlackBerry back up to reasonable stature, the phone would have to have an amazing camera, and a unique and killer feature to set it apart from the rest.