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.
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.
BlackBerry Hub+ includes more than just the Hub. It’s a service that comprises BlackBerry’s Password Keeper, Calendar, Notes, Tasks, and Device Search, and other apps previously exclusive to BlackBerry’s own Priv and DTEK50 Android devices, but not for free. Hub+ has a 30-day trial, after which ads will begin appearing in the Hub, Calendar, and Password Keeper apps. You’ll lose access to Contacts, Tasks, Device Search, Notes, and Launcher, too, if you opt not to pony up — a paid subscription runs $0.99 per month.
Here’s what’s included in addition to Hub:
- The BlackBerry Launcher features Pop-Up Widgets: you can view any app’s home screen widgets by swiping down on its icon. It sports shortcuts to email and your phone’s dialer, too, and keyboard shortcuts that can be assigned to tasks and apps — tapping B launches the browser by default, for instance.
- The Calendar app’s headlining feature is integration with the Hub. You can create meetings from invitations and public calendars, for instance, plus comment on invites and quickly add additional participants. The app’s otherwise fully featured: you can filter meetings by location, notes, and subject, see any potential conflicts when you respond to an invitation, and, perhaps coolest of all, set your mobile to automatically switch to vibrate when a meeting is in progress.
- The Notes app lets you search across your jotted reminders and sync them to a Microsoft Exchange account.
- The Contacts app can perform people searches across your signed-in email accounts; shows a list of contacts to whom you’ve recently reached out; and surfaces search results for nearby businesses and locations.
- BlackBerry Tasks lets you set due dates and reminders, notifies you of upcoming tasks, and, like Notes, can mirror all that content to a Microsoft Exchange account.
- Password Keeper stores your passwords in a “secure location,” plus randomly generates new ones and grades your existing passcodes on a scale of “strength.”
- Device Search, as the name implies, parses your calendar, contacts, and BlackBerry Hub contact for whatever — or whomever — you wish to find at a given moment.