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Android Runtime on BlackBerry and Piracy

APK Loader

With the launch of BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry was aware of the challenges that it would face with respect to the app ecosystem and smartly incorporated an Android Runtime sandwiched within the BlackBerry 10 OS. The OS that launched in January this year is completely redone from ground up and lost all compatibility with the apps running on the legacy BlackBerry devices. It however retained compatibility with many apps on the not-so-popular PlayBook. The Android Runtime was supposed to provide BlackBerry with head start by taking advantage of the efforts put in by Android Developers. With the Runtime, BlackBerry also released effective tools that allowed developers to repackage their APKs and submit them to BlackBerry for getting listed in the BlackBerry App World.

Recently with BlackBerry 10.2, BlackBerry updated the Android Runtime from Gingerbread 2.3.3 to JellyBean 4.2.2 This increased the app compatibility and in spite of all these efforts, BlackBerry has failed to attract developer interest to the ecosystem which is an important reason for BlackBerry 10 not being able to achieve success. Until BlackBerry 10.2, developers had to use the Developer Tools on a desktop to repackage the Android App File (APK) into a BAR package and side-load it onto their BlackBerry Devices to test the app. It is quite likely that developers may not have wanted to put in such efforts for a declining user-base. BlackBerry in its continuing efforts to attract Android Developers, with 10.2.1 BlackBerry has made it even easier by allowing them to downloading an APK file straight to a BlackBerry 10 device and the repackaging and installation is done on device by the OS.

With Internet as it is abused today, APK files are viral across many illegal sites and are being used by some BlackBerry users to obtain apps that can be termed as piracy, although it may not be entirely accurate. A popular Android Blog recently delivered a controversial commentary on this topic accusing BlackBerry users of promoting Piracy that has not gone down with many BlackBerry users.

Illegal App Stores

The main point of contention with such tools is that, it allows many BlackBerry users to download many free apps such as Instagram, Google Maps, Candy Crush Saga, etc. from illegal app stores such as 1Mobile App Store. The 1Mobile App Store maintains a database of APK files that have not been submitted by the original developer and earns revenue through many advertisements on the App Store at the expense of the developers hardwork. Many Android loyalists point out that ever since 10.2.1, many BlackBerry users have been exploiting this service and blame BlackBerry to promote piracy. It is however to be noted that the 1Mobile Store is a service primarily targeted towards Android users whose primary OS is the Android and NOT BlackBerry users. Google many a times restricts App downloads to certain devices due to various policies. With high fragmentation in the Android devices, many users seek out to such App Stores to gain access to these APK files. It can be safely said that majority of the people obtaining apps from such stores will be Android Phone users by a huge margin. Hence, it is wrong to put the blame for using such App Stores on BlackBerry as it is the whole SmartPhone community who is responsible for this and not BlackBerry users alone. 

Further, there are many legal app stores that accept app submission directly from the developers allowing them to gain a fair chance of revenue with their work being redistributed on their approval. A few of them are Amazon App Store and the Yandex App Store. BlackBerry 10 users can download the Amazon App Store on their devices to gain access to the Amazon App Store after signing in with their Amazon account and agreeing to their T&C. Since Amazon has already entered into an agreement with the developers to redistribute their software at the agreed cost and BlackBerry users are obtaining the same through legal means at the said cost, this in no way can be termed as piracy. It is impossible for the agreement to restrict the apps to certain devices since almost every other fortnight, a new device is launched. A BlackBerry user reached out to the Amazon Customer Support and was provided with a rather pleasing response.

I understand your concern and there isn’t to worry I’d love to help you out.

As you already know officially Amazon Appstore is not supported on any blackberry device, but if you are getting the service please enjoy it.

Please be rest assured, by using the Amazon Appstore on your blackberry device you are not violating any law.

Please be informed as this device is not supported under Amazon Appstore if you have any issue with the app, I’d suggest you to contact the app developer for further assistance.

I hope this information helps ! We look forward to seeing you again.

No to PiracyHow is downloading free apps piracy?

As per the wiki page on Copyright Infringement, Piracy can be “used to refer to the unauthorised copying, distribution and selling of works in copyright.” Mobile Apps – whether free or paid, are definitely a work in copyright. As per the stated definition, downloading free apps through illegal channel is piracy for sure, since it was illegally copied and redistributed through the App Stores such as 1Mobile.

However, redistribution of such free content might not create any harm to the developer as his product is going to reach a larger audience and that is exactly what a developer would want for his free product in most cases. However, many a times the developer has created an app on the freemium model and wants you to use the free app so that he can earn money through the in-App purchases or in-App advertisements. Many developers invest their intellectual capabilities to create an addictive user experience that motivates users towards in-App purchases. Distribution of the app through unauthorised mediums exposes the developer to these losses. Hence, unauthorised distribution of free apps is a double edged sword that may work for some (free) and not for others (freemium) and with no written demarcation as of now, will have to termed as piracy causing harm to the developers.

How can you tackle the Android Piracy?

The problem with piracy is deeply rooted within the Android ecosystem and whatever is being seen on the Runtime on BlackBerry is only spillage of the same. Expecting BlackBerry to rectify this issue at their end would be foolish since the unauthorised APKs are leaking from the Android world to BlackBerry. Google as of now readily approves many apps that allow you to extract the APK files on the Android devices that can be further redistributed with ease. No encryption is performed on the APK files uploaded to the Play Store that would discourage such redistribution. With Google allowing such apps in their store, it gives not strong message to discourage software pirates and hence app piracy is the most rampant on the Android platform. BlackBerry and Apple have taken additional steps to discourage pirated apps. Alec Saunders, VP Developer Relations at BlackBerry in 2012 had published a blog post criticising the side-loading method for piracy and indicated the inclusion of encryption within apps that would allow only authorised users to gain access to the app. Even on a Apple device, you will not be allowed to use an ipa file, if you have not purchased the app. Your Apple sign in credentials will be verified if you try to install an ipa file on your iPhone and the installation request will be turned down.

Hence, it is necessary that the Android App redistributors such as Google, Amazon and Yandex safeguard their developers interests by incorporating encryption that can be tied to their sign in IDs to disapprove unauthorised installations.