| | 08-20-14, 08:52 PM Thread Author #1
Why BB10 doesn't have Google Services or official access to the Google Play Store.
[This article was written by request of several CrackBerry members with the hope that it would be made into a sticky to help answer these frequently asked questions.]
As any BlackBerry follower knows, one of BB’s biggest challenges with BB10 is the lack of apps. Native app development has mostly stalled, with the exception of a handful of indie developers and presumably some enterprise-targeted developers, and BB has recently partnered with Amazon to pre-install the Android Amazon Marketplace onto BB10 phones with the release of 10.3.x. That will make it simple for BB10 users to install Amazon’s Android apps, and Amazon’s Marketplace contains apps that have had any Google Services dependencies removed and replaced with other resources - be they Amazon’s payment system or a different mapping system or whatever.
The Amazon Marketplace is far from a complete solution, though, for several reasons. It only has roughly 20% of the apps that the Google Play Store has, is missing many key, popular apps, and because the Amazon Marketplace is clearly a secondary priority for developers, which is made clear by the infrequent updates the Amazon versions of apps receive.
This situation prompts many BB fans to ask:
Why can’t BB simply get Google Play/Google Services access?
To answer that question, it’s important to understand that those are two different things. The Google Play Store is the “official” repository for Android apps, while Google Services are a set of programming APIs that allow developers to tie into various functions and services that Google offers, including things like: Google’s payment system, Google Maps (to imbed map functions into apps), Games (for rankings/scoreboards), Google Drive (to access Drive storage and the Google Drive office apps), and so on.
BB10 users are currently able to access the applications in the Google Play Store in various ways, including using the native BB10 application Snap, but note that Snap is not only unofficial, it also violates the Google Play Store Terms Of Service (TOS) and thus could be blocked at any time. BB could never include Snap or officially acknowledge its existence without risking a lawsuit from Google.
Google Services are an even bigger problem for BB. In order to have access to Google Services, as well as to have official, authorized access to the Google Play Store, a company must meet a number of requirements that BB currently does not meet, and is very unlikely to meet in the future. Among those requirements:
- Membership in the Open Handset Alliance (OHA)
- As part of membership in the OHA, agreeing not to fork Android (BB10’s Android runtime is a fork)
- Any phone sold by an OHA that contains Android code must use Android as the base OS, and must have a start-up screen that states “Powered by Android”, using an approved logo in an approved size/color scheme/etc.
- The implementation of Android on every OHA device must pass a Google Compatibility Test, which checks thousands of aspects of the phone to make sure everything is working as required to make full use of Google Services and Google Play Store apps.
- A set of Google applications must be pre-installed by the manufacturer, and must be prominent. The application list is updated periodically as Google updates apps, but among current requirements are: Chrome, Google+, Drive, Hangouts, GMail, and others.
- The Google Play Store must be pre-installed and must be the default apps and media store.
- Licensing fees must be paid to Google, based on the number of phones manufactured. Manufacturers are directed to contact Google to negotiate those fees.
Why are Google Services important?
Google Services are required to access nearly all of Google’s own Android applications, so without Google Services, those apps won’t run. Further, Google has been encouraging developers to validate their apps via Google Services and to integrate Google Services into their applications wherever possible, which not only gives developers access to rich, well-developed services to include in their apps, but also serves as a barrier to app piracy. More and more developers are integrating Google Services into their apps as they update them, and as that happens, devices that aren’t Google Compliant won’t be able to run them, unless, for example, that developer takes the time to make a separate version of their app with replacement services and put that app on an alternative App Store, such as the Amazon Marketplace. Some developers have done just that, but many can’t justify the work and expense of maintaining a separate version of their app, so either the app isn’t on the Amazon Marketplace, or it is rarely updated.
But I thought Android was Open Source? Why can’t anyone use Google Play/Google Services?
Android is open-source, but Android is only the base OS of the phone. The Google Play Store has never been open-source (developers own their own source code and decide how to license it), nor has it ever been “open to all” without any requirements or dependencies - it’s always been tightly controlled by Google. The same is true of Google Services - they’re some of Google’s most valuable assets, and Google isn’t about to let its competitors use its own services against it. Access to either the Play Store or Google Services requires a license, which Google Certified Android devices automatically have, but which other devices do not have.
Then how does iOS have Google apps? My iPhone has a bunch of Google stuff!
Simply, the iOS market, especially in mature markets, has been too big, and too wealthy, to overlook, so Google has built their own iOS-native Google applications for iOS. Technically, Google could do the same thing for Windows Phone or BB10, but so far has chosen not to, giving the reason that those OSs simply don’t have enough marketshare to make the development and support costs worthwhile IMO
So, in summary, unless BlackBerry decides to ditch BB10 and make a true Android phone, which I think is extremely unlikely at this point, it’s nearly impossible to imagine BB10 getting access to the Android-based Google Services or the Google Play Store. In order for Google to grant BB access, they would be violating the agreements they have with nearly 200 other manufacturers, who are held to the rules of the OHA.