Developing for BlackBerry vs. Android


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Jul 11, 2012
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Developing for BlackBerry vs. Android
I want to share my experience with developing for Android and developing for BlackBerry with you folks. I don?t want to talk about development only, I will also let you know my thoughts about analytics and revenue. I've just posted this at the CrakBerry forums, but I think it might also be an interesting read for Android developers.

I know that there are people out there that whitewash the process of creating applications and generating income for their needs (on both platforms), that?s not what I?m planning to do.

I don?t want to judge the platforms in any way, just sharing my impressions and facts.

About me
To understand my situation you will need to know some general things about me. I am a 20 years old developer from Potsdam, Germany. I?m studying IT Systems Engineering at the Hasso Plattner Institute for Software Systems Engineering. I started developing for Android in 2011, soon to be followed by BlackBerry in 2012. That?s when I started my own business. My main project for BlackBerry is and the BB10 Sideloading Tool.

I will use the Remote Control Collection as foundation for my comparison. The Android version of that app is available since November 2011. By now it has a few more features than the BlackBerry version, so I won?t compare the latest version and stats to be fair.

The BlackBerry version is a native BB10 Cascades app, following all the Built for BlackBerry guidelines. It is available since March 2013 and offers a noticeable higher performance than the Android app. Before the launch of BB10, it was available as an Android port for the PlayBook.

Getting started with Android development was really simple. I had no Java knowledge and not much experience with Eclipse at this point. The huge number of example projects allowed me to use almost any feature I needed with sample code. When I got stuck, dozens of people at StackOverflow had the same issue and found a solution that worked for me.

When I started developing for BB10 with the first SDKs and the DevAlpha hardware, I knew I could not expect many resources or a large developer community. It was hard to get the beta tools working and I had to deal with most of the issues myself. That has changed by today, the Gold SDKs are stable and the BlackBerry support forums offer help for the most common issues. The lack of example apps made it hard to get started, the samples provided by BlackBerry are only usable for a few usecases.

Unfortunately the API guides and reference documentations for BB10 were nothing but a joke compared the Android ones. BlackBerry will have to improve that a lot, and better sooner than later.

Location API guide for Android and BlackBerry

Actually developing software is really comfortable for both platforms, if you don?t have any issues. The QNX Momentics IDE reminds of Eclipse and lacks only a few features compared to Android Studio. When it comes to deploying apps, BlackBerry has a huge advantage. The wireless debugging tools are great and the emulator offers a much higher performance than the Android ones. I miss Android?s LogCat, though.

Android Studio

QNX Momentics

The first thing that I needed for both platforms was of course a developer account. When registering as an Android developer, Google will charge you 20$ for verifying your identity. Creating a BlackBerry developer account is free. Unlike Apple, Google and BlackBerry don?t call for any yearly fee.

Before actually uploading anything, apps need to be signed. Android uses a keystore for that, BlackBerry has it?s signing keys. Once that?s done, it comes to creating a market entry.

Android offers the ?Developer Console?. Adding applications or updates is really straightforward, just like I expected it. Changes go live in about 3 to 5 hours.

Android's developer console

BlackBerry offers the ?Vendor Portal?. Adding new releases is a bit more inconvenient, but I got used to it fast. A major difference is that releases have to be reviewed by BlackBerry before they go live. That?s great for the users but can be annoying for developers. I had a case where the review lasted 5 days just to deny the release because the description contained the word ?Android?.

BlackBerry's vendor portal

Once an app is available for the public, things differentiate again. I want to mention the way both platforms handle comments / reviews.
Android recently allowed developers to reply directly to reviews. In addition to that, other users can up- and downvote reviews or mark them as spam.

Managing comments for the Play Store

While BlackBerry doesn?t allow votes for reviews, the developer can deny or approve reviews manually.

Managing comments for the BlackBerry World

Stats are an important thing and both platforms offer some statistics in their developer portal. Android statistics have improved a lot since 2011 and now contain any information you could care about.

Stats in the developer console

BlackBerry statistics haven?t changed since I first saw them in 2012. That would be alright if they would offer a rough overview, but the provided charts are barely usable. A vendor can generate ?Download reports?. I can customize the start and end date, can select which app(s) I want to include and if it should show downloads or purchases.

Just to give you an idea of what I?m missing:
? Daily installations / uninstallations
? Total users
? Average rating
? OS Version
? App Version
? Device
? Crash reports
? Country & language
? Age & gender

Stats in the vendor portal

For both platforms there is a free and a paid version of the Remote Control Collection available. The apps contain the same features on both platforms. The BlackBerry app was featured in the BlackBerry World for 3 days. The Android app was never featured in the Play Store.
I know that comparing absolute numbers is not very meaningful because there are many factors that these numbers depend on. I?m not here to analyze anything, just giving you an idea of what I experienced.

Let me first talk about the free version. Although the user doesn?t have to purchase anything, it?s generating income for me. The app doesn?t contain any advertising, but when setting up the Windows server software the user has to visit the product website, which contains an Ad banner.
So the important thing for me is the number of users that use the tool for the first time, which is basically the number of daily installations.

? For the BlackBerry app that is 250 installations per day in average.
? For the Android app that is 4.000 installations per day in average.

Now these free users are the foundation of the users that will pay for the pro version, which of course generates more revenue than advertisement. The BlackBerry app costs 2,69?, the Android app 2,49?. BlackBerry as well as Google takes 30% of the purchase. I don?t want to promulgate my earnings here, but let me just state that:

? Highest daily income for the BlackBerry app was 80? (while the app was featured).
? Highest daily income for the Android app was 470? (without ever being featured).
? For every 100? I get from BlackBerry, I get 4.000? from Google.

Before I made the decision to develop for BB10, these where the things I thought about (and what I think now):
? Much less users (True)
? Users will be more likely to purchase (Not in my case)
? Less competitors (True)
? Advantage of being available at launch of BB10 (Not a big deal)

I don?t want to discourage anyone who wants to start developing for BlackBerry, I love the platform and I enjoy developing for it. I just want you to know what I experienced and don?t want to leave you with false expectations.