Calling all Droids: BlackBerry’s giving away the Hub

Productivity crown jewels escape Waterloo

Android icon desktop toys

Any modern Android device running Marshmallow will soon be able to run BlackBerry’s Hub, launcher and its other PIM software previously restricted to BlackBerry devices. The Canadian company will sell them through the Google Play Store for non-BlackBerry devices for free, or a 99 cent per month subscription.

The deal includes the Hub message aggregator, BlackBerry’s eponymous Android Launcher, Device Search, and PIM apps including Calendar, Notes, Tasks and Password Keeper. All will be available free with adverts, or via a paltry 99-cents-a-month subscription. It’s hard to think of an Android out there that won’t be improved by the package. Google’s own launcher is based around feeding its AI engines rather than taming the tsunami of alerts.

BlackBerry’s Hub was a hallmark feature of its QNX-based BB10 platform when it launched in January 2013, aggregating emails, calls, text and IM messages. The Android version debuted with the Priv last year. Fundamentally, it’s an email client (one that includes support for BES email) that captures and processes Android notifications, ,currently supporting SMS, social media and Slack. It isn’t quite as full-featured as its older BB10 sibling, which includes a full SMS client.

BlackBerry's Hub for Android

A rather underrated part of the package is the content search, which doesn’t send every search to Google, and is more comprehensive than Samsung’s built-in offering.

BlackBerry will continue to flog its own ‘Droids, touting their security as a unique differentiator. That’s something that can’t be unbundled, and explains why security management utility DTEK DTEK isn’t in the list. (This needs BlackBerry’s hardened kernel; BlackBerry’s take on Android eschews the standard SELinux kernel PDF.

Interestingly, the BlackBerry Keyboard isn't part of the deal either.

BlackBerry Device Search - part of the Hub+ package

BlackBerry originally announced its intention to port and then license the “crown jewels” – including the Hub – to third parties for iOS and Android in March last year, but via the B2B rather than B2C route, in the hope that other manufacturers would include them. No word of an iOS has been heard since.

BlackBerry says it hopes to support Lollipop in time.

The software can be tried out for free for 30 days. Anyone curious should search for “BlackBerry Hub+” (note the plus) on the Play Store “in a few hours” BlackBerry tells us, which should include the full package. Somewhat confusingly for now, the current catalogue entry for “BlackBerry Hub” only includes part of the deal, and remains tied to BlackBerry phones only. Hub+ (when it appears) should download the lot. ®

Related Link

BlackBerry's blog Post

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