BlackBerry has introduced its Hub+Services software suite on the Google Play store recently and it is performing better than the mobile giant had anticipated according to Chris House, head of device software development at BlackBerry. Hub+ Services have so far received more than 1,000 reviews on Google Play with a current rating of 4.4 out of 5. The Hub inbox, with its flow features available in its Calendar, Mail, and Tasks, groups all updates, texts, e-mails, and other alerts along with diary and calendar entries in a very user friendly and clear way. Like its BBM messaging feature, it is one of the best applications offered on BlackBerry handsets and won many accolades when it was launched as part of the BB10 operating system.
Hub+ was previously only available on the Priv and new DTEK 50 devices made by the company with the apps being free for users of their phones. Following the company’s successful launch of the application on Google Play for devices using Android Marshmallow, BlackBerry is now assessing the prospect of introducing more custom Android software for handsets not manufactured by it. Right now BlackBerry are offering other Android users a free 30 day trial after which people either have to pay a monthly fee of US$0.99 or view ads in order to keep on using the app. BlackBerry are also developing a version for the iPhone and are investigating how they can make the system compatible with Android handsets using the Lollipop operating system.
Currently the software being offered to BlackBerry users and other Android users is not exactly the same. The renowned virtual keyboard Blackberry has is not available for other Android brands. The security on the Priv and DTEK50 platforms includes a hardened Linux kernel. BlackBerry users also get security patches released by Google quickly and the DTEK application offers additional information on what permissions apps have attained and how they are being used. But Chris House is not ruling out the possibility of DTEK eventually becoming accessible to all Android users and mentioned in an interview that the company are “looking at everything” and examining “a different way of thinking”. He also alluded to the strong relationship shared by BlackBerry and Google and suggested that their working together would make a lot of sense.
The first BlackBerry handset was introduced in 1999 and while it was very popular for a while, sales started declining, especially after the introduction of Nokia’s first smart phone. The company underwent a crisis in 2013 and more than 4,000 people were laid off. Making the Hub+ app available to Android manufacturers reflects a shift away from the company’s hardware focus to that of a software one. In fact, CEO John Chen has indicated that the company may do away with the handset business altogether if it does not make a profit by the end of the fiscal year. The indications are that BlackBerry might be willing to consider licensing more of its software to Android in the future and to that end if has been paying closer attention to the Android for Work offerings.
Hub+ is not yet available to all Android smart phones. But it is only a matter of time before this changes as BlackBerry is adding more models to its compatibility list every day. The application is easy to use and just requires a Gmail account to set it up. It detects and gathers together notifications from all the social media networks being used by an individual like Facebook, Pinterest, work and private e-mails, social messaging apps, Twitter feeds etc.
The road ahead will become more concrete after the company’s quarterly earnings reports leading up to the end of its fiscal year in Feb 2017 are released. The profitability of its handset business will become apparent leading to concrete decisions on which path BlackBerry wishes to go down in the near future.