BlackBerry today released the much-anticipated beta release of the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps and Plug-in for Android Development Tools for BlackBerry 10.2. That’s a mouthful, but all you really have to know is that the new version adds the Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean runtime; you can download the latest release now directly from BlackBerry Developer.

One of the biggest gripes with the Android runtime on BlackBerry 10 and the BlackBerry PlayBook is that it’s still using the ancient Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread version, which was originally released back in December 2010. At BlackBerry Jam Europe in February, BlackBerry announced it would be updating the Android runtime to support Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (June 2012). Now it has delivered, and with the latest Android 4.2 Jelly Bean release to boot (November 2012).

BlackBerry promises that all the features that were previously available in Gingerbread will continue to be supported, but additional Jelly Bean-specific features have also been added. These include fragments, embedded fragments, animation framework, and hardware acceleration.

In short, this is excellent news for both developers looking to port Android apps and users who will be using them. The better Android apps look and function on BlackBerry, the more of them will be ported and the better the overall app experience will be on BlackBerry.

Again, this is still the first beta, and BlackBerry wouldn’t say how many more betas it has scheduled. The company wouldn’t offer a date for when the gold release would be available, including support for Jelly Bean in the BlackBerry 10.2 device simulator, though it did vaguely say “later in the summer.”

Developers will want to check out the release notes for both the BlackBerry Plug-in for the Android Development Tools and the BlackBerry Runtime for Android Apps.

See also – BlackBerry is finally taking BBM cross-platform, launching on iOS and Android this summer and Review: With its US launch, can the Z10 save BlackBerry from itself?

Top Image Credit: Chris Denham