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There's been a big move in the shares of BlackBerry the last couple of days upward on news that they're partnering with Google, much as they did with Samsung, to "secure" Android devices for corporate use.

While this does not necessarily means that the full Google Suite will become available on BB10, it might foreshadow it -- particularly if Google loses their anti-trust cases in a number of countries that are pending due to their forced-agreement structure for Play and its components.

I believe Google is arguably in violation of anti-monopoly statues in this regard in the United States as well, and one of the reasons (indeed, arguably the reason) these agreements with handset makers are kept "secret" is to prevent them from being analyzed on that basis.  The problem with such a clause is that it's unenforceable as soon as someone fires off a subpoena, and that day has both come in other places and probably will come here in the US as well.

Once it does, or if Google simply decides that allowing "Play Store" access without bundling all the other pieces that demand access to your personal data as well (such as Gmail, the contacts and calendar interface, etc) is a good idea the gate will come down.

As it stands right now BlackBerry intentionally prevents you from sideloading the Play components.  There is no technical reason to do this, only a business one -- and since you can't tamper with a BlackBerry BB10 OS and remove or change components (since their load process is actually secure, as far as anyone has been able to determine thus far) that "cock block" has remained effective.

This doesn't prevent people from loading Android apps -- and most of them not only load they do run.  It only prevents you from loading their official store interface, along with the services components (e.g. in-app billing.)

Even if this announcement doesn't lead to official "Play" load capacity for BB10 devices it's a big move forward for BlackBerry, and a tremendous revenue opportunity -- one that certainly merits a nice revaluation of the company (and it's stock) upward.

If, however, that block was to be removed and Play explicitly permitted, which might come about not so much due to negotiation but rather due to Google losing in one or more countries on a world-wide basis, the impact would be utterly tremendous as it would turn the BB10 handsets into the corporate handset of choice at all levels from the least expensive to the super-premium handset (e.g. Passport), bar none.

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10.3.1 is now showing up as an "official" load across multiple carriers worldwide.

The importance of this is that unlike many other vendors all BB10 devices, all the way back to the original Z-10, are supported and can and do run the newer firmware quite nicely -- unlike Android phones which often NEVER get updated and IOS ones which do but might not run acceptably well on older devices.

I've had this as a "leak" on my Passport for a while (SR 1581) and it's very nice.  Among other changes are dramatic improvements in customizing of notifications (per-contact and per-profile if desired), better "advanced interactions" and material improvements in Android interoperability.

One of the more-important ones (from my point of view) is that the restriction on Android app name length that has been present since the original releases appears to have been removed.  This means that ThinkOrSwim now loads and runs without issue; previously you had to decompile it, shorten the internal name and then re-pack and re-sign it (with your own key) in order for the phone to accept it.

That, incidentally, points out one of the problems with Android apps -- you can do that sort of thing, which means if someone is malicious you're in serious trouble as they could patch the app and if they got you to load it, there goes your password!

Stability of this release has been outstanding and in addition significant reductions in battery consumption while on standby have been noted here.  The latter difference is not small, particularly in LTE service areas.

CrackBerry has the links up and someone will almost-certainly post a "Blitz" file shortly, which can be used if your carrier is being a pig and not releasing this promptly (US Carriers, all of them, are on this list -- can you hear me now John?) and, unlike Android devices in particular it is entirely safe to load such a file because BlackBerry's chain-of-trust prevents the phone from accepting a modified or unsigned file.  If you manage to force the phone to load a tampered file (that can be done through some rather ugly machinations) it will not boot -- all operating system related files must be signed with BlackBerry's cryptographic key for the phone to "take" them.

"Blitz" files can be loaded via either Sachesi or Darcy's tools; either will select the proper OS and radio for the device connected, reducing the risk of a "soft brick" that can occur if you accidentally load the wrong file.  Such an update is non-destructive; your data will not be erased, although it's always a good idea to take a backup using BlackBerry Link first just in case something goes wrong.

Enjoy.

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