How to Get Your Android App BlackBerry Ready: Fungitron for Playbook

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Fungitron is a very detailed resource on mushrooms, originally available for Android devices it has been ported to the Playbook platform. You’ve probably heard a lot about how easy it is to get your existing Android app working on the BlackBerry Playbook, Here’s Peter Kovacs’ first hand account of the whole process.

The reason the developer found the BlackBerry platform is through a “port your app to BlackBerry and get a free Playbook” program that RIM started to stimulate developer interest. Below is his process for getting his Android app working on the BlackBerry Playbook and soon enough: BlackBerry 10.

The Blackberry tablet promotion, earlier this year brought in cca. 7000 “new” (originally android) apps into AppWorld, and one of them is Fungitron, the definitive mushroom guide. It is present in the Google Play shop since March. This story is about the process how an android app became a Playbook app, also resulting in a free Playbook.

Fungitron is a mushroom guide originally for Android smartphones and tablets, which contains:

  • fine-grained search filtering,
  • own, high quality, zoomable mushroom photos,
  • descriptions written by fungi expert,
  • precisely designed icons,
  • and 70 freely available, detailed mushroom species.

And this is now available on Playbook!

The promotion was focusing on the capability of Playbook OS 2.0, that it is able to run native Android apps. Although the apps can not be loaded directly from Google Play (former Market), but their developers can transform them into an executable package, which can be published on AppWorld itself.

First step is registering onto AppWorld as a vendor, approval took a week in our case, maybe due to the overwhelming interest of fellow Android developers. When we looked into forum messages, there were frightening stories about providing scans of IDs, driving licenses but now none of them were required.

The least complicated way to the conversion from Android to Playbook is the web based BlackBerry Packager for Android Apps, which is a 3-step process, from compatibility check of the app, till conversion and signing. We met only one problem (not really problem with the site), that signing keys are very painful to move from a PC to another: only one computer is meant to be used for signing.

A bit sophisticated solution is enhancing Eclipse ADT development environment with another plugin. This makes our well-known tool capable of producing BAR files for Playbook. (Later we changed for a command line script, which automatically creates the BAR file whenever an Android APK is built.)

The only problem emerged during conversion of Fungitron were the high resolution icons, so they had to be swapped for some smaller.

Testing was a more tedious job: lacking a real device, we had to rely on RIM’s BlackBerry Playbook emulator (VMware image). Actually its display was flickering in big tiles continuously and Fungitron download was always stalling at 100 MB. We found some clue in the forums and it seemed that graphic problems were common amongst the testers, it tended to be a general issue. Downloading was not solved, so we had to make a workaround: we created a “streamlined” database (smaller than 100MB) and it was successfully downloaded into the flickering emulator.

At this point we have already spent roughly two afternoons (but compared to Android, it was sometimes more difficult) and as the promo was almost over, we had to hurry. We sent Fungitron for approval and in couple of days it was approved without problems, which made our very own Playbook seemed to be closer.

And actually some 2 weeks passed by, and we were then testing Fungitron on a real Playbook, which was not flickering, but produced a very stable look of our app. Download issue also solved itself and never occurred again in real. There was only one minor issue, that AppLauncher (Android framework in Playbook) had a lower tray which sometimes overlapped some of our icons in the gallery. It was fixed in no time, otherwise the app works perfectly, the extras, such as gesture in gallery, tablet layout, etc. were all in place, performance is flawless.

Getting back to the full database meant that we are able to provide the same, uncrippled version of Fungitron on the AppWorld. We hope that Blackberry reached its goal with the give-away and gained several new developers with their straightforward and productive app conversion process, we are happy to release every new versions and builds for Playbook, too.

And we are now eagerly looking forward to the Android capability of BlackBerry 10 OS.

Download Fungitron for Playbook free from BlackBerry App World.