10.1 Gold – With great SDK powers, comes a bit of responsibility!

BlackBerry World

What responsibility? To make use of all the new features and make your app even greater! And of course, you want to ensure you are supporting as many in-market devices as possible. As you already know, the 10.1 Gold SDK and OS is out, along with the Q10 devices! However, since there are still some Z10 devices on the market right now running the 10.0.X.X OS version, some questions and confusions might be present. Which SDK version to compile against? Which are the target devices? How many BAR files should I keep? How do I manage my code base? We will try to tackle some of these common questions here.

Coding and deploying for the devices with 10.1 OS

Even if your older 10.0 Z10 version of the app runs “fine” on the newer 10.1 devices (Q10 and upcoming Z10 update) running the 10.1 OS version, you should try to use the latest 10.1 SDK. Why? Starting with the 10.1 SDK, you get access to some new features which will enhance your app’s experience on the Q10 devices significantly. This particular blog post here is a great source of information when you are converting your Z10 app for the upcoming Q10 devices. In terms of the UI elements that you can leverage as a developer, among others, you now have access to certain components like the auto hiding ActionBar, customizable/freeform and sticky TitleBar – these elements will allow you to maximize your screen real estate (for the smaller screen Q10 devices) and provide more room for actual content for the users.

Key shortcuts and listeners are some of the other slick new features; they make common tasks much easier for your users. The Q10 devices are definitely designed for the power users who love the physical keyboard and who value productivity greatly. You want to show them as much useful content as possible (even in the smaller screen) and require as few user input as possible to get to the primary features and content.

What about my current applications for the Z10 devices?

If there are any updates or bug fixes necessary for your currently public Z10 versions of the app (made using 10.0 SDK), you definitely don’t want to keep your users waiting. Until the in-market Z10 devices receive the 10.1 updates, you should continue posting updates and bug fixes as necessary. Going forward, the new 10.1 features that you will be using for Q10 devices (which you definitely should be) and upcoming Z10 updates; if they are mainly on the QML asset files, you can just continue to maintain just one BAR file. All the 10.1 specific QML code; those asset files can be placed in the folder called 720×720. For devices running lower 10.1 OS, that folder will just be ignored and only the QML files in the root folder would be considered. You can check out the github sample apps here to look at the code for projects like these. If you are using any new 10.1 C/C++ API then your application would need the latest 10.1.X.X SDK to compile against to bypass all the compile errors (the corresponding BAR file would also be a different one, since it would need the minimum 10.1 platform to run against).

Project Explorer View

The QML code under the 720×720 folder. It is using some new 10.1 specific features (e.g. customizable TitleBar).
If the same BAR file is run on the 10.0 devices, this code won’t be executed (the folder will be ignored).
Note: This is a modified sample code shown here just for demonstration

The QML file under the root assets folder; this will run by default. Note that there is no 10.1 specific code here

Note that you can install all the different SDK versions through the IDE update options and install the different OS versions. Re-iterating what is mentioned on the release notes:

  • If you are developing using a BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha device, you need to download the 10.0.10.263 target from the update site.
  • If you are developing using the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone, you need to download a target from the update site that matches the device version that’s provided by your wireless service provider. You can verify the device version by opening the Settings app, tapping About, selecting OS in the Category drop-down list, and checking the version that’s listed in the OS Version field.
  • For more information about developing apps that work on different versions of the BlackBerry 10 Native SDK, see Appropriate version of the BlackBerry Native SDK in the BlackBerry Support Community Forums.

How do I specify restrictions to BlackBerry World and BAR files?

When you are submitting the signed BAR files through your vendor portal account, you can choose the minimum OS version and the devices accordingly. These settings control whether or not your app will show up on the users’ BlackBerry World app (depending on the devices and the OS version they are currently running on).

Note that there is also a specific value that can be set through the bar-descriptor.xml file, which dictates the minimum required platform OS version required to install and run the app. This in turn gets reflected on the final signed BAR produced (MANIFEST.MF file). Do not modify this default value set unless you are absolutely certain which device OS versions you want to prevent the app from being installed (even if they are discovered through the BlackBerry World app). This value is checked by the OS itself when the app is installed and run using the BlackBerry World app. However, this is not something that the BlackBerry World looks at (currently) to filter what apps the user can see to download. This means, if you are playing around with this value, there could be instances where the user can see or buy the app through the BlackBerry World app but not be able to install it! The vendor portal filtering only gives you granularity between 10.0.0, 10.0.10 and 10.1.0 for now but if you are modifying the bar-descriptor.xml value for this, you can end up being really specific (10.0.9.X, 10.0.10.X, 10.1.X.X) which could prevent your users from installing the app (even if they are being able to see it or buy it).

The bar-descriptor.xml editor from the QNX Momentics IDE

Viewing the resulting signed BAR file through the IDE (MANIFST.MF file)

Viewing the resulting signed BAR file through the IDE (MANIFST.MF file)

Managing code base

Since there are newer API/libraries with 10.1 SDK, you might already be thinking about how to manage your code base better. Well, there are a few different options to choose from:

  1. If you are already using a version control system like Github, just use the branching and merging technique for your code base
    • Create a new branch from your latest 10.0.X.X code version. Add all the new 10.1 features here and continue to use this one for devices running 10.1 (Q10 devices for now and soon to be Z10 as well)
  2. If your 10.1 changes (e.g. using some of the newer UI elements and features) are mainly on the QML assets, you can make use of the static asset selector which is new with 10.1. Basically, your IDE will be pointing to the same project (code base) but based on which device you are targetting your app, it will select the respective .qml files
    • As mentioned before, the Z10 devices running lower than 10.1 OS, will just ignore the folders such as the 720×720
  3. If you are using 10.1 specific API in your C++ code (only), you can use the NDK versioning macros to detect the OS versions. This forum post here talks about this in details

To Sum Up

  • For devices running 10.1 OS, definitely use 10.1 SDK to compile and deploy your app; make use of all the useful features which will make the Q10 experience of your app significantly better
    • As soon as 10.1 OS is picked up by the Z10 devices, these app releases will be shown through BlackBerry World as well (provided you set the vendor portal filtering accordingly)
    • There is more than one way to manage your code base; you have to decide which one is best for you
  • For posting updates and bug fixes to the 10.0 Z10 versions of your app, continue to use the respective 10.0 SDK to compile and deploy the app
  • Sanity check: Don’t forget to test and try out the application on the OS versions that your users are expected to run the app

We hope at least some of this was helpful to you. If we have missed any particular cases, do bring them to our attention and we will try to advise accordingly. Hope to see all of your apps for the Q10 devices soon!

About Shadab Rashid

Application Development Consultant; passionate about user experience, consumer software products, entrepreneurship, music and people! @surashid

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