It’s the apps that make or break a mobile platform, and BlackBerry 10′s capabilities of being able to run Android apps bodes well for this new OS. These capabilities allow BB10 to tap into the vast ecosystem of apps that currently exist for Android, and help give the former a major boost. According to reports, over 20 per cent of apps in BlackBerry World are Android ports, with many of them acting as fillers till the time the developers can come up with native BB10 versions. Not that we’re complaining – as long as the apps work as intended and deliver the requisite usability.
Android ports notwithstanding, we still miss quite a few of our favorite apps on BlackBerry 10. Flipboard, Zite, Instagram, and many others are still MIA if you’re a BlackBerry 10 user. Thankfully, there are workarounds. With some help from us, you can easily sideload these on your BlackBerry 10 device. In fact, the process we’re going to outline here was originally intended for the BlackBerry PlayBook, but works for BlackBerry 10 as well (since both operating systems are based on QNX). This is why you’ll find that most software tools and the online resources for sideloading refer to the PlayBook. Conveniently, this process works sans wires, and for both Windows and Mac users – the only prerequisite being the Chrome browser. Do note that sideloading is largely a hit-and-miss affair, and not everything will work as intended. In some cases, you’ll find that older versions of Android apps actually work better for sideloading on BlackBerry 10.
The first step is to actually get hold of the apps you want to install on your BB10 device. Android apps use the APK extension, but these can’t be sideloaded on a BlackBerry 10 device directly. Like the PlayBook, BlackBerry 10 makes use of BAR files for installation. Various websites and forums offer pre-converted and signed BAR files, ready for sideloading. You could head to bb10bars or GoodEReader to get started, but there are tons of other places online from where you can download BAR files from. Just find and download the one you want, and we’ll show you how to get it up and running on your BB10 device.
Alternatively, you can also convert your own Android apps for the purpose of sideloading. However, apart from converting the APK file to BAR, you’ll also need to sign it to be able to actually install it. An extremely simple online converter is available here. All you need to do is upload an Android APK file, and it will be converted to a signed BAR file, ready for download and installation.
Once you have the BAR file you want to install, make sure your PC or Mac are on the same Wi-Fi network as your BB10 device, and put the latter into development mode. To do this, head to device settings and tap on “Security and Privacy“, and then on “Development Mode“. Flip the button next to “Use Development Mode” to on. In case you haven’t set a device password, you will be prompted to create one now. Do so, and make note of it.
Launch the Google Chrome browser on your PC or Mac. Search for, and install the “PlayBook App Manager” extension.
Next, you’ll be prompted to enter the device hostname or IP of your BlackBerry 10 device. The IP address can be located in device settings. Tap on “About“, and then choose “Network” from the drop-down menu. The IP address you need is listed under the IPv4 head. After you enter this IP address in the Chrome window on your PC or Mac, hit “Save“.
You’ll now see an SSL certificate error page. Click “Proceed Anyway” to get past this. The next window will ask you to log in to your PlayBook with your device password. Enter the password you had created while putting the device into development mode. If you want the Chrome extension to remember this password, check “Auto Login” and click on the button marked “Log in“.
Your PC or Mac will now try to connect to your BB10 device, and will then display a list of installed apps. From here, you can launch, terminate or uninstall any of the apps, and of course, do the one thing we originally intended, i.e., cram that BAR file(s) down its throat!
Just drag and drop the BAR file(s) on the area at the top right of the PlayBook App Manager window in Chrome, and the extension will start the installation process wirelessly. A progress indicator is displayed, and when it’s done, you’ll see the coveted “success” message. The app is now ready on your BlackBerry 10 device. Have fun!