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In pictures: Free Android apps for BlackBerry PlayBook, 10 best downloads
RIM recently released a major software update for its BlackBerry PlayBook that enables it to run Android applications. Android-on-the-PlayBook pickings are somewhat slim right now, but there are some quality apps out there if you know where to look, starting with these 10 great free downloads.
How to Sideload Android Apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook
"Sideloading" Android apps on the PlayBook tablet, or installing "unofficial" Android apps without the use of BlackBerry App World, is simple. But you will need to download a few software tools, including a Java development utility and a PlayBook app installer, as well as repackaged apps in the form of .bar files. My friends over at CrackBerry.com have already described the process quite well so I won't reinvent the wheel. (Find instructions for Windows users here and Mac users here.) When you're done, keep moving for a list of the best currently available Android apps for the PlayBook.
Twitter for BlackBerry PlayBook
A number of Twitter apps are available for the PlayBook, including my personal favorite, Blaq, but no "official" Twitter app has been released for RIM's tablet. If you're familiar with the Android Twitter app, or simply prefer a basic but efficient Twitter experience on your PlayBook, you'll appreciate the official Twitter for Android app. Its clean interface makes Tweeting simple and easy. And it runs very well on the PlayBook.
Amazon Kindle for BlackBerry PlayBook
I'm a voracious reader, and I've been dying for an Amazon Kindle app for PlayBook ever since Amazon said it would deliver one way back in September 2010. Unfortunately, the company still hasn't made good on its promise. And though I've been using the online Kindle Cloud Reader with my PlayBook for some time, I'm thrilled to finally have access to a Kindle for PlayBook app that lets me read while offline, take and save notes and much more. And the Android app runs like a charm on RIM's tablet.
LinkedIn for BlackBerry PlayBook
The new OS 2.0 software has some LinkedIn features built into its native Messages and Contacts applications, including the ability to see messages from LinkedIn connections and quickly find their contact information. But it doesn't offer all the functionality of the dedicated Android app. The software isn't designed for tablets, so you'll see quite a bit of blank space in the interface. But LinkedIn for Android provides a much more well-rounded LinkedIn experience than anything else I've seen on the PlayBook.
Android Apps on the BlackBerry PlayBook
The new BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 features an "Android Player" component that allows for access to a variety of popular mobile applications not previously available to RIM tablet owners. However, "official" Android apps for the PlayBook must be repackaged by their developers and then submitted to RIM for distribution via BlackBerry App World. Thanks to a handful of crafty developers and other PlayBook users, you can also "sideload" select Android apps that haven't made it to App World yet. Slide 2 outlines how to sideload Android apps, or go ahead and jump to slide 3 if you're already familiar with the process.
Credit: RIM and Google
Shazam for BlackBerry PlayBook
Shazam is a Web-based service that "listens" to music and delivers artist and song information, along with a variety of album details and more. It may not be an app you'll use every day, but you'll sure be glad to have it when that song you couldn't get out of your head last week starts playing on the radio again and Shazam identifies it for you. The Android app had trouble delivering album art, and it had some issues identifying lesser known artists and songs, but no comparable apps are available for PlayBook at this time so it's definitely worth a download.
Words with Friends for BlackBerry PlayBook
If you haven't at least heard of the addicting phenomenon that is Words with Friends, you should probably drag yourself out from beneath that boulder. The online game is a "digital Scrabble" of sorts, in which you play other Internet-connected friends and attempt to form words with your allotment of letters. I know, it sounds kind of boring, but it has swept the world of mobile apps by storm. (Even movie start Alec Baldwin is hopelessly addicted.) The Android app can be a bit buggy on the PlayBook at times, but it gets the job done.
Google Maps for BlackBerry PlayBook
Google Maps has always been one of my favorite online-mapping and navigation apps on a variety of mobile platforms, and it's probably the best such software on the PlayBook, even though it's an Android app and turn-by-turn navigation doesn't seem to work on RIM's tablet. However, the maps functionality works well, as does the basic GPS location feature, the driving- and walking-directions functionality and public transportation schedules, etc.
Pool Break (Full and Lite) for BlackBerry PlayBook
One of the only worthwhile Android Apps I've found that's "officially" available via BlackBerry App World is Pool Break, which offers PlayBook owners a visually engaging and fun billiards experience. The free version only offers two types of pool: traditional eight ball and nine ball. But the three-dollar "Pro" version features many different styles of pool and a number of additional gameplay options, making it well worth the cash.
Paper Toss for BlackBerry PlayBook
The point of the Paper Toss game is very simple: Flick balls of paper through varying degrees of wind currents into a trash bucket, and try to see how many balls you can sink in a row. Thanks to a number of difficultly settings, the game is simple but not always easy. Quite a few very impressive games are available for the PlayBook today (check out a few of my favorites here) but sometimes it's the games with the simplest concepts that are the most fun. And Paper Toss is perfect for killing time.
Dropbox for BlackBerry PlayBook
Dropbox, perhaps the most popular and widely used cloud storage service, is now available for the BlackBerry PlayBook…or at least the Android version can be sideloaded. Upload various file types, including documents, images and video, to your Dropbox, and download files already stored in the cloud via BlackBerry tablet. The Android app runs very smoothly on the PlayBook, and I haven't come across any compatibility issues at all.
Amazon MP3 with Amazon Cloud Player for BlackBerry PlayBook
The Amazon MP3 for Android app is designed for use on handhelds, so the software's UI isn't exactly stunning on the PlayBook. But it does give you online access to any and all music you may have stored in your Amazon Cloud Drive, and it's easier than firing up a browser to access your music every time you want it. I personally have upwards of 20GB of tunes on my Cloud Drive, so this app gives me access to a significant chuck of my digital music library, and I don't have to waste any valuable storage space on my PlayBook. The Android app lags a bit on the PlayBook, but it works fine.