I’m finally getting serious in using the BlackBerry Z10, much to BlackBerry Malaysia’s chagrin as we were holding onto the review unit for a while now. The major factor in keeping anyone tied to any platform is quite obvious: the apps we use everyday and the breadth of its ecosystem. BlackBerry had a bit of a head start with the PlayBook that runs on the same QNX platform as BB10 and supports Android apps, but its own app selection is still relatively lacking.
In this exercise, we’ll do this from Chrome on a Mac.
You’ll need to either be on a PC or a Mac. This is because BlackBerry Link is required and it’s only available on these two OS’s.
I initially wanted to use the Samsung 4G Chromebook as part of my challenge to live in the cloud for a week. Not surprisingly, it didn’t work as I can’t install BlackBerry Link on it and make the Z10 detectable by the Chromebook.
Get Google Chrome if you haven’t already.
Initially I went on with just the Chrome extension and the Mac couldn’t detect the Z10. I deduced that the BlackBerry Link software is required for the drivers and for the link-up. The Z10 will actually auto-mount a virtual disc on both the PC and Mac with a link to download BlackBerry Link. Once installed, it’ll automatically launch whenever the Z10 is connected, but you could just close it.
PlayBook App Manager is an extension, not a Chrome app, but this one actually doesn’t even have an icon. Upon installation, the page will auto-load and be sure to bookmark the link to be accessed later. Curiously on the Mac, the link doesn’t show up, but here’s how to access is again later:
* Click on Chrome’s ‘menu overflow’ button (the three horizontal lines).
* Select ‘Tools’ then ‘Extensions‘
* Look for PlayBook App Manager and click on the ‘Options’ link
BlackBerry 10 doesn’t recognize APK files, and they have to be first converted to BAR files. You could do it yourself, however pre-made BAR files that have been tested to work (most of the time), are already available on sites like these:
The last link is a CrackBerry forum thread where the OP lists a lot of apps not available on the first three sites. Download away.
BlackBerry 10 has a Development Mode, similar to Android. To toggle it go to:
Settings > Security and Privacy > Development Mode
Once enabled, set your desired IP address; the default is 169.254.0.1. You could leave it as default, however if you have multiple BlackBerry 10 devices, increment the number accordingly to avoid conflict. At a certain point, you’ll be prompted to enter your device’s password, the one you use to unlock the screen.
Note that you’ll have to re-enable this every time the device is rebooted.
Now plug in your Z10 to the computer, and close BlackBerry Link when it launches. Head to the extension’s page and enter the IP address previously set, then click Save.
Click on the link under ‘Manage your device’. You’ll be directed to Chrome’s SSL certificate error message; safely click ‘Proceed anyway’. Enter the device password and login. This page constantly failed to load for me and to rectify this usually involved restarting the Z10, and re-enabling Development Mode.
We’re almost there. All you need to do now is to click ‘Install Apps’ and browse to the BAR files, or just drag and drop them to this page. Do not unplug the device until it says ‘Success’ on the upper-left. Installation of each app might take around 10-20 seconds to complete.
When the installation is complete, check the Home screen (or app drawer if you’re from Android) for the newly installed app(s). Launch and test them out!
At this point, I’ve only installed six Android apps, namely Evernote, Easy RSS, Pocket, Google Maps (hell yeah), Flickr and Instagram.
There are bound to be bugs. Google Maps, for instance, I couldn’t enter the in-app settings menu at all; it’ll just crash the app. I’ve tried gReader but it never syncs the feeds and was stuck at the loading phase.
So there you go. This method is actually simpler compared to sideloading the BAR files from DDPB, vnBB10 or Playbook_Tools. If you own a BlackBerry 10 device, please do chime in with your favorite Android apps you currently have installed on your phone. We need more BlackBerry-using readers here in TechAttack.