Jumping from BlackBerry to Android? Here's what you need to know!

Getting a little tired of your BlackBerry and looking for a change to Android? You've got questions, we know. How smooth will the switch be? How do you move your contacts and e-mails? Can you find all the apps you need? Will the change be hard to adapt to?

Just a few months ago, I was in the same boat, getting bored with my BlackBerry Storm 2 (which was not my first BlackBerry). And after talking to friends who grabbed the Motorola Droid, I began to research Android for myself. Immediately, I jumped into the Android Central forums.

Let’s take some time to go over the conversion process, what you will need to know if you're coming over from BlackBerry, and some other information to help make the transition an extremely smooth process.

Getting started from BlackBerry to Android

For many of you, the BlackBerry may be the only smartphone you have ever known. For years I had personally experimented with Windows Mobile, Palm, and BlackBerry OS, so change was not something I feared, as long as the new phone the same functionality I used daily. I took a look at my standard use, what features I used regularly, which ones I used on occasion, and which features were neat extras to have. This is where I began my research, and it's a great place to start here.

Transferring your contacts

One of the most important things for many of us is our contacts. If you have switched devices before, you know that having your contacts transferred for you at a retail store can be time consuming (and annoying) But it can be pretty easy in switching from BlackBerry to Android.

The first step in this rather easy process would be to create a Gmail account if you don’t already have one. Why do you need to do this? Android requires -- note how we put that in bold italics --  a Google account in order to activate the phone. Once your new account is created add it to your device, then download Google Sync on your BlackBerry, which syncs your contacts and calendar into Gmail. The backup process can take some time, depending on the size of your phone book. But once you sync that new Gmail account to your Android phone, it will now pull all of your contacts, e-mail and calendar to the device. Rather simple, huh?

All about e-mail on Android

If you're a (former) BlackBerry addict, you're an e-mail addict, plain and simple. So how does Android handle e-mail? You have a couple of options, but Gmail is the best, and easiest. In fact, we're just going to come out and say it: If you give yourself over to the Google experience, it's going to make your life a lot easier.

I realized that the Gmail experience Android offers was going to be far superior to what I was getting on my BlackBerry. But the drawback to this was that the rest of my e-mail accounts (using POP or IMAP) might have a much slower delivery time. But I had already began using my Gmail account as my primary, so this wasn’t very bothersome.

To some this may present an issue, because your primary account may be a Yahoo or Hotmail account. But any fears diminished when Jerry showed us How to use Gmail as a Push Server, bringing nearly all my e-mail accounts to a push-style.

But back to gmail. While gmail use on BlackBerry has gotten a lot better recently, it's just not the same as the proper gmail sync on Android. With Android, you get full access and control over your e-mails, including labels and starred items. Need to search for an e-mail? It's unsurpassed on Android. This is huge, as I have various folders set up for different purposes and try to keep up on maintaining organization of the inbox, which until just recently was not possible on the BlackBerry.

Point is, gmail is where it's at with Android. We use it. You should, too.

What about calendars and Exchange support?

We'll hardly be the first to say it: Exchange hasn't been great on Android, though Google's giving it a good beefing up in Froyo. HTC has it built into its Sense user interface, and it's not bad.

The calendar situation's much of the same. If you do everything through gmail, well, again, you're going to be just fine. You may see a few hiccups with Exchange, but it's not a total deal-breaker and should get better soon.

Replacing BlackBerry Messenger

OK, this is going to be a tough one, we admit. BlackBerry Messenger is a chat client that is tied to your individual BlackBerry PIN, and will only work for chat among BlackBerries. It's a shining feature, and millions rely on the real-time chat to connect with friends and coworkers. So, once you move to Android you have to give up your BlackBerry Messenger contact list, or do you really have to?

While, yes, you will no longer have BBM, Android devices offer Google Talk, which is a Google-based chat client. Honestly, it’s rather surprising how many of your BBM contacts will also have a gTalk name, since Gmail has become one of the most popular email extensions used. The Talk client, like BBM, will run in the background if you wish, but a nice feature that it offers that you won’t find on your BlackBerry is the ability to sign out of the service. While yes, this may be something rather small, it is great to be able to just sign out, and escape for a little, because no matter how addicted you may be, everyone needs a break.

What’s great about gTalk is that no matter what platform any of your friends may be on, there is generally an application that will support it on their device, as well as computer based applications, which makes it easy to keep in touch with everyone from just about anywhere. Go ahead, pick a BBM contact and ask them if they have gTalk, I am sure that most of them will respond with yes, especially since I was able to get every contact from my BBM list on my gTalk list.

Finding new applications

One huge gripe of many BlackBerry users is that App World stinks, and often times people will go without an application, or wait to find an alternative method of installation so that they don’t have to bog down their device by installing AppWorld. With Android, the Android Market is built into the phone is very clean looking, doesn’t slow down, or freeze your device, and rather easy to navigate. Updating applications on Android is definitely favored over the BlackBerry, since you don’t have to reboot your device each time. And if you wipe your device, or get a new one, you don’t have to enter activation codes on all of your premium applications. Because your applications are tied directly to your Google account instead of a PIN, activating them on a new device is a breeze -- all you have to do is download them, no pesky PIN changes, or activation codes needed.

The use of Google Checkout is annoying to some, but personally I find it to be very easy, as you can just input credit card information one time. It's securely stored and then is automatic for future purchases.

For the most part there comparable Android apps to replace what you're leaving behind on BlackBerry -- and often times they're better.

The greatest thing about the Android Market? You can purchase an application, give it a try, and get your money back if you don't like it and uninstall within the first 24 hours. While this is only allowed once per application, it is a great feature. Free trials on every paid app.

Update: Google has changed this policy.  See this post for more details.

Customizing your device with ROMs and themes

Often times the first thing someone wants to do with a new device is personalize it, change things around, change ring tone’s, and call it their own. Half the fun of owning a Smartphone is the ability to be able to do all these fun modifications, and more, so can they be done on an Android? Sadly themes are not quite as common on the Android as they are on a BlackBerry, there is no application that allows the average user to input some custom icons, change font colors and sizes, and even add cool animations if they wanted to. With your BlackBerry you are able to choose from hundreds, if not thousands of customized themes for your device, while with Android you will find far fewer of these per device. While this may sound like an immediate drawback, the difference in the OS, with the various home screens, the integration of widgets at different sizes, the ability to add shortcuts and folder keep it feeling fresh everyday. What is the best part of the Android themes you may ask? Oh, yes, well you don’t have to set up your icon configuration and redo widgets and folders and all that jazz upon loading a new theme.

In the BlackBerry community, it seems as though users are always looking for a leaked OS, or a new hybrid to load on their device, usually just so they can stop complaining about one flaw, and start complaining about a new bug. When reading about Android OS’s, their releases and their version of hybrids, it became rather obvious that official releases were about as appealing to many as watching paint dry. The large part of the Android community strives from developers taking the source code from Google, compiling and optimizing their own version, which they call a ROM. In addition to all the standard features, many developers take their releases to the next level and add additional features, like 360 degree rotation, custom scripts to remove applications, ability to run applications from SD card, and many more. Unfortunately, in order to run custom ROM’s, the device will need to have root privileges, which at the time not every device has. This process can be a bit risky, but just like loading a leaked OS, there are plenty of great walkthrough’s, and an amazing community of people here that are always willing to help in your time of need.

What are all these Android versions?

Now it's time to decide which device will best fit your needs. Reading about the various versions of the Android OS could be a rather daunting task, as there are a few different ones, and they are geared towards use in different purposes. The choice between stock Android, Sense and MotoBlur can be the hardest choice out of them all. While all of these run off the same base of Android, give most of the same functionality, each of them is geared towards a slightly different crowd.

stock1_6

stock2_1

Many are used to the look of the stock Android OS, since that is what has been seen commonly ever since the G1 was released. The look of the stock Android OS is somewhat plain, in comparison to the others, but for some it offers maximum functionality. Since this version is not bogged down with an overload of social media widgets, the basic, straightforward look and feel is one that is preferred by many. Devices running the stock style of Android will allow owners to add customer launchers, change their home screen style with the use of some applications, and overall allows for the most customization. Some examples of devices that run this style of Android would be the Motorola Droid, Nexus One, G1, and some others.

sense

The new HTC Sense interface for Android (read our full review) is built and geared a little more towards a simple user experience with a very straight forward look and feel that just about anyone can adapt to. With Sense comes a bottom style hidden dock that will allow you to change settings, open your application drawer, as well as access your phone functionality right from the home screen at any time. One of the biggest draws towards the Sense user interface is the amount of widgets that are included, and how well they function and integrate into daily life. Some of these widgets include the infamous clock and weather icon, the contacts widget, which offers integration of social networking to your contacts, as well as a great music widget. While these are only some of the widgets available, each widget will suit the needs of individuals differently, but they are certainly one of the greatest features. Unfortunately with the Sense UI, themes are non-existent, and the only way to change the complete appearance of the device would be to flash to a new ROM, if one is even available. Currently, devices like the HTC Droid Eris, HTC Droid Incredible, HTC Hero and others are running the older version of Sense UI. And many who have tried it have fallen in love with it.

The final variation, MotoBlur, is one that is geared more towards social networking, as it has all of the widgets like Facebook, Twitter and others right on the home screen. Having these widgets readily available on your home screen will allow you to read and update statuses on all your favorite social networking channels. Currently MotoBlur is laid over Android 1.6, which is a slightly older build of Android, which does not offer all of the features that other devices running 2.0 or 2.1 will have, such as live wallpapers, pinch to zoom, and Microsoft Exchange Support.. The current selection of MotoBlur devices is limited to the Motorola Backflip, and the Motorola Devour. But new devices like the Flipout and possibly the Droid 2 may update Motoblur to something more usable.

Final Thoughts

It is very hard to cover every aspect of the conversion process, and there may still be a few questions left unanswered. Our forums are full of great information, with tons of amazing members who are always around to assist with any issues that may come up. In addition to the forums, check out the information packed How-To section, which is being added to regularly with information that is useful whether brand new to the OS, or an experienced Android developer. If the time has come, and thought’s of leaving your BlackBerry behind for something new have began to take over, have faith that your decision is one that is leading you to another great OS, that will offer an extreme amount of features, applications and more.

Jared started off writing about mobile phones back when BlackBerry ruled the market, and Windows Mobile was kinda cool. Now, with a family, mortgage and other responsibilities he has no choice but to look for the best deals, and he's here to share them with you.
70 Comments
  • I found myself in the same boat earlier this year. I was a loyal blackberry user and all but refused to switch over to the Android platform. I was very very tempted by the Droid but was worried about email. After doing my own research and stepping out on faith I went ahead and purchased the Droid and it was the best decision I ever made. I fell in love with the phone in about a week. When I had T-mobile service I had a G1 before and it didn't really wow me like it did everyone else. I later purchased a My Touch 3g and it somewhat wowed me but not like my Droid did. After months of the Droid I caught wind of the Incredible and that was an even better experience with the Android platform. As soon as I got settled into my Droid Incredible I see there was a new device on the horizon...the EVO 4G. Needless to say I jumped ship Sprint for a lower bill and a better device. Out of all the devices I have had this EVO is hands down the best phone I have ever used. I can say that with the upmost confidence having used everything from a V60 to you name it.
  • So...you buy 4 top of the line smartphones within a 1 year period, and then you switch to Sprint "for a lower bill"?
  • Damn you get around
  • "Upmost confidence"? Dude how much Viagra have you been taking? I think you might need to contact your doctor. PS - It's "utmost"
  • After 2 years of using BB I finally got sick and tired of terrible WEB experience which BB generally offers and I purchased Nexus One directly from Google. As an IT consultant by trade I always test equipment before going "live". Unfortunately my tests revealed rather poor performance of gmail "push" functionality on N1. I run side by side Bold 9700 and N1. Same wireless carrier (Rogers in Canada) two different SIM cards. There is almost 20min delay in "push" email being delivered on Android based N1 in comparison to BB. I was unable so far to resolve the issue. If you need fast email experience looks like Android is not a solution.
    Also if you have anything but perfect 20/20 vision you will be disappointed to find out that Android email font size is NOT adjustable. Huge overlooking by young geeks from Google. WEB experience is in my opinion the best out of all mobile devices I have ever used.
  • This has not been my experience at all with the N1, however I am on the Bell Mobility network. I've observed that my Gmail notifications show up as soon as mail arrives in my account (the delay, if any, is less than a minute from when I see the mail in my Gmail Web window). I have also set up a Mail profile to connect with my work email (Exchange), and that can be set to check as often as every 5 minutes. It's not exactly push email, but that's certainly fast enough for my needs. It's likely the delays you are experiencing are a network issue and have nothing to do with the OS or hardware. I agree that it would be nice to have control over the font size of emails, but it really hasn't been a big issue for me. Maybe this will be addressed in an update?
  • Actually, the font size IS adjustable in email...by Android email I'm assuming you mean Gmail... On the opening Gmail page (which generally is your inbox), just click your MENU, MORE, SETTINGS, and there is an option there: MESSAGE TEXT SIZE. You can choose from Tiny, Small, Normal, Large, or Huge.
  • thanks for this tip!! :)
  • My story is somewhat similar to yours. I was also a loyal BlackBerry user but my friend were teasing me for using such an outdated phone. So I finally said goodbye to my trusty BlackBerry torch and hello to new mighty Xperia Z1 Android. Now I'm loving every bit of my new Android smartphone and no regrets switching to Android. I easily transferred my contacts and sms messages from BlackBerry to Xperia android with the help of Mobile trans program: http://www.iphone-to-pc.com/transfer-data-from-blackberry-phone-to-iphon... It's a good program to transfer your contacts and sms from Blackberry to android phone.
  • I just switched from my Curve 8330 to the Evo and I cannot stress enough the ease and simplicity with which I transitioned because of my having a Google account. Using Gmail, Google Voice, and Google sync (on BlackBerry) essentially means I never have to worry about transferring info from ANY old device to a new one EVER. The only things about BlackBerry that seem to work better are Facebook notifications (and how they're organized) and battery life (while running many backgrounded applications).
  • agreed. had a blackberry for years and was getting tired of it. I punched in my account and within literally seconds all my contacts were there. Facebook totally agree as well. I find I'm having to run both friendstream and the facebook app to have about the same functionality.
  • There are a few things minor things that I miss about my old Blackberry 8330. - Customizing the number of times ringers vibrate per notification.
    - The supply of accessories, I know that will change soon.
    - BB messenger - you just gave us a fix for that I know I can probably find an app in the market to cover other items I have been missing. The transition of my contacts and calendar was easy since I used the BB desktop and had everything synced with Outlook. HTC sync uses the same interface so it took just a few minutes to transfer. I'm enjoying every moment of my new android world
  • Gtalk doesnt have the little R and D's like BBM does there has to be a third party app out there that works cross platform and that mimics BBM. Any ideas people?
  • It's called cnectd. It's cross platform for Android, Blackberry, iPhone, and Symbian. It's in beta right now, so it's a little buggy, but it has the potential to be a really good im program. There was a blog about it on crackberry a while back. Here you go.......http://crackberry.com/cnectd-cross-platform-bbm-alternative-beta-now-ava...
  • try pmessenger. it's in the market.
    i've never used it but i believe the idea is that each user gets a pmid# which can then be used with the app across different operating systems. i believe it works on android, iphone & bb. not sure about webos & palm? don't know if it has the R&Ds either, sorry.
  • This was a great article, can't wait to fully make my switch to Android!!
  • i'm an ex-crackberryer and i'm so glad i made the leap from my shitty storm the to droid and the android platform. seriously is night and day.
  • 2 words: Dual processors
    I'm sold
  • is there a jumping from Prē webOS to Android/EVO article?
  • BlackBerry sucks so much. Yes they were the first to offer a smartphone experience but dear God, update that OS! It's the same thing since they first made it in 1999. It would be like using Windows 98 now but just sugar coated with updates, it's still the slow, laggy system that nobody bothers with anymore. Yes that sound a little extreme but when business owners and companies are switching to Android and even iPhone, what does BlackBerry offer? An email exchange client that all smartphones cover already? I can say I used to be a BlackBerry Curve 8330 owner and I will never go back after using that phone for a year. Android on the other hand, wants to be current by adding in new, exciting to use easy features with every update. No wonder Verizon blew off the Storm 2 when the Droid was being released. Anybody see a commercial for the Storm 2 at all till the phone was out for over a month?
  • Although I agree that the Blackberry OS is outdated compared to the other smartphones out there, i recently bought the Droid Incredible and it has it issues as well, WAY LESS THAN MY STORM, but there's some. It all depends on what you are looking for. I really wasn't a touchscreen person and here's one example why. My battery was low on my Incredible, like 20% nothing too crazy, and all of a sudden my screen start just sliding to the right for no reason, i couldnt hit the phone button on the screen to call anyone and it just became unresponsive. At least with my BB 8830 i could have still made a call out because it's not completely reliable on the touchscreen. My point is that if your looking for a consumer phone, with social apps, and dont need a keyboard...yes my Incredible is that phone, but if your looking for a business workhorse, an excellent messaging phone, you are better with keyboard, and dont want to murk up your screen with fingerprints, then blackberry's are the way to go.
    But i do love my Incredible!
  • I was windows mobile, then blackberry now going for the EVO. I have been with Sprint for 10+ years so no problem there. Here's what i would miss most since i use my phone for work and personal. Tour can go anywhere i've used it in china, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan etc, so i will probably keep my device for the next trip and activate it just for that. Microsoft Office Communicator on the BB is awesome, i use that for work way more than BBM. I have been looking into VPN on EVO and using the MOC Web client as I dont believe a native client exists, that i can tell. I have seen some remote desktop clients which is promising but gotta have the VPN!! Email will be pushed from Gmail, Hotmail and Exchange! What i hate about the BB is the usual: Trackball on BB Tour, Web Browsing is horrible, etc I am pretty much making the jump but this article is helpful. Gmail vs Hotmail is a non-issue as i use both but Exchange is the big unknown for me, but since i've seen email on other Android phones around the office i am very hopeful.
  • Try Logmein .com it is something we use at work and has been pretty good. They have a free version that i use to be able to connect to my family members computers when they have a problem. So far it has worked really well.
  • I am so ready to jump ship from blackberry!!! The OS feels ancient and the platform is just too boring for me. Coming from an iPhone 3G, my 9700 gives me a really boring user experience. I want an android phone but at&t just sucks at getting decent android phones, and Verizon is just too expensive for me. The new iPhone 4 looks good but I am tired of apple and their BS hardware and software policies. I want a Dell streak but it ships with android 1.6 which is a big downer for me. I want a phone with 2.1 minimum if not 2.2, but it looks like google has yet to get their act together with Android and will continue with their broken platform. This is really annoying and I can't help but feel helpless as I write this comment. Oh well i guess my upgrade that I have been saving since January will go towards a shiny new iPhone since android is letting me down on at&t.
  • Wow man you just got a problem with everything dont you. Any thing else you want to nitpick on? How do you figure android is broken?
  • Sorry did not mean to come off like that. I just think that Android should bring its latest and greatest to its phones if they are compatible which most are, but this is not androids fault its the carrier's fault. Well like I said I want Android and I want it bad so I will more than likely wait for that Shiny Dell Streak.
  • Get an AT&T banded Nexus One! Next to my old Bold 9000, this is the best phone I've owned. Oh, and I am running 2.2 no problem.
  • I am really tempted but I am hoping at&t upgrades the Nexus within this year, which probably wont happen. never hurts to dream though! :D
  • Android recently made some security upgrades in recent incarnations that help it play nice with exchange. So if that's what your worried about I wouldn't. I'm sure there is an article that can explain more.
  • I made the jump from BB to Android myself finally. Can't believe what I have been missing. I feel that the OS is way better than that boring crap RIM is putting out. I owe my buddies for the jump..thnx guys. Only thing I might miss is the infamous bbm. Going from a BB Tour to DInc is like night and day.
  • The only thing I really really really miss about my blackberry, (I hope Google or an app developer reads this). Is that my evo only let's me assign custom ringtones to gmail, text, and voicemail, not to any of my other personal or wo