In recent weeks, I’ve shown you how to make your phone feel like a Nexus, a Windows Phone, even an iPhone. Next up was BlackBerry, but in all honesty, some things just can’t be replaced and replicated. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few tweaks that bring back a little of that old BlackBerry magic — and I’m gonna share them with you — but there’s no magic icon pack or launcher that just pulls it together into a real complete BlackBerry theme.
That’s a testament to BlackBerry’s unique design — and its (sometimes painful) simplicity.
BlackBerry fans, if you haven’t jumped over to Android yet (or you jumped over a few years ago and are in the market to upgrade), you can buy a phone that’s entirely Android yet distinctly BlackBerry. The BlackBerry Priv has the best physical keyboard on an Android phone in years, is getting security updates just as fast as Google’s Nexus phones. And there are decent deals to be had if you know where to look. So if you want BlackBerry design, BlackBerry security, and a BlackBerry keyboard, this is your answer.
If you don’t have that much room in the budget for a phone, or the Priv just isn’t an option for you, all hope is not entirely lost. You won’t have an exact BlackBerry theme, because BB10 was — how do I put this delicately?— unique. Even our friends over at CrackBerry who gave me the reference material for this post said BB10 was rather basic. And to that end, here’s how to bring some of that basic beauty back to your phone.
While it’s not quite the same system as BlackBerry 10 (which was little more than a recents page and an app drawer), the closest I’ve come to the BlackBerry layout for a launcher is the newly beta’d ADW.Launcher. ADW is still very much a beta, but contains the numbered home screen and app drawer pages. If you really want it to feel like a BlackBerry, you’ll keep the first home screen page clean except for maybe a date/time widget, and you’ll put all your apps on pages 2-5.
For icons, you can take one of two paths. The first path is to download what few stock BlackBerry icons you can and apply them to system apps as custom individual icons and then just take the stock Google icons for the rest, the same way BlackBerry itself has done on the Priv. The second path is to forget the BlackBerry icons and just grab a consistent, good looking icon pack that’s dark, has depth, or both. Here are a few often touted among the CrackBerry community and of our own choosing:
- Belle UI Icon Pack (Free) is all very rounded squares with soft shadows and subtle depth to them. Belle UI supports an impressive number of launchers and while we always wish it themed more icons, it’s a beautiful pack to start with.
- Moko – Icon Pack ($1.00) is another rounded rectangle icon pack, but this one is a bit more pastel, a bit more a bit flatter, and absolutely adorable. It features over twice the number of icons Belle UI does, and has supports icon masking on most launchers to keep things consistent.
- RETRO ICONS Pack (Free) gives all its icons a faded, far-out, retro vibe (hence the name), and is based off the awesome, now open-sourced Moonshine icon pack. It’s a definite departure from the polished, businessy look of BlackBerry, but this was a pack that was recommended a fair bit in our CrackBerry forums.
- Stealth Icon Pack ($1.99) however, was the most recommended icon pack we came across on CrackBerry, with the dark, shadowy pack showing up time and time again in icon pack recommendation threads and home screen threads.
I’ll repeat it as long as I have to, but I implore you to use a wallpaper that brings some personality and life to your device. But if your heart is set on using one of BlackBerry’s wallpapers, they’re all right here… Please at least use one of the fun ones!
The lock screen that best brought back the BlackBerry magic — and used by CrackBerry editor-in-chief Chris Parsons in his own quest for a BlackBerry theme — is Next Lock Screen by Microsoft, another company that knows a thing or two about productivity. We covered it last week in our Windows theme, it’s not so much a lock screen replacement as it is a layer atop your lock screen, and so long as you’re using a fingerprint to lock your phone or frequently using Smart Lock, you shouldn’t notice the dual layers much.
Next offers a quick launch bar for your most-used apps and shows your latest notifications and appointments on your lock screen, giving you a glanceable way to check your phone without having to unlock it during a meeting or do a lot of swiping. The only major change for most users will be swipe down to unlock rather than the traditional swipe over/up.
A quick word on BlackBerry apps
I would love nothing more than to direct you to all of BlackBerry’s apps for Contacts, Passwords, Calendar, and all their other services. Unfortunately, while they’re all listed in the Play Store for easy updating, they are not available for any other device besides the BlackBerry Priv. Sorry, folks, but BlackBerry really wants you to buy a Priv, as opposed to Google or Microsoft who want you to use their services in the hope that you’ll buy more services or hardware from them. The only BlackBerry app available to non-Priv Androids is BlackBerry Messenger, which is actually published under a different account.
It’s not as though the Priv is a bad phone, it has the best keyboard on the Android smartphone market and is one of the most secure phones to boot. It’s just not a phone everyone can use, or afford. But whatever phone you’re using, you’ve got plenty of options for bringing a bit of BlackBerry nostalgia to your handset.
So, what BlackBerry touches have you been missing on your Android phone? Are there are more tweaks you have for getting that old BlackBerry magic on your device? Share you tips, tricks, wants and desires in the comments below!