BlackBerry’s Core Apps Come To Android as a Subscription Service

August 4, 2016, 8:43 AM UTC
The BlackBerry DTEK50

BlackBerry’s embrace of Android continues: Not only has the Canadian smartphone pioneer released its second Android phone, but now it’s also making its core suite of productivity services available for users of other smartphones running Google’s operating system.

The company hasn’t completely turned its back on its own operating system, BlackBerry 10, but it’s now stopped making its traditional keyboard-equipped handsets and isn’t planning to release any new BlackBerry 10 phones this year. So Android it is then.

In line with that strategy, most phones running the “Marshmallow” variant of Android will be able to run the BlackBerry Hub+, which is already available on the firm’s pricey Priv and cheaper new DTEK50 smartphones, as well its remaining BlackBerry 10 phones.

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Hub+ is a suite of applications that provides unified access to various email and social media accounts, as well as a calendar, a password manager and contacts, task, device search and note-taking features.

BlackBerry is hoping that people like the free, cut-down 30-day trial of Hub+ enough to start paying $0.99 a month for the full suite. If people don’t want to shell out that amount, they can view “occasional ads” instead.

“BlackBerry Hub+ is the first pure software offering from the new Mobility Solutions Group. But it’s a natural move for us. Not only is it the latest example of BlackBerry’s fast-emerging software business (already at a run rate exceeding $500 million a year), but it fulfills our promise to make the fruits of decades of R&D and software development as widely available to users of other devices and other platforms as possible,” BlackBerry wrote in a blog post.

For now, the rollout is not that widely available. BlackBerry’s post noted that the Hub+ applications would only run on Android 6.0 Marshmallow devices “which meet certain performance criteria,” and even then Marshmallow only accounts for 15% of the Android phones out there.

For more on Android, watch our video.

(Happily for U.S. Senate staffers who will need to give up their old-school BlackBerry handsets, the Samsung S6 smartphones on their new list of approved devices run Marshmallow, so they won’t need to give up their core BlackBerry services if they don’t want to.)

That said, the post noted that BlackBerry still wants to make Hub+ available to users of the preceding “Lollipop” version of Android. That would account for another 35% or so of the Android phones currently in use.

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