BlackBerry Priv, Android Auto, And Other Oddities Of Life

Recently, I started to converse with an individual who had the BlackBerry Priv which refused to play nice with his recently purchased Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Now, my first thought was that seeing as the BlackBerry Priv is a Android device, it should work. But in his case, when you plugged it into the car via the USB port, the infotainment system said “not media compatible” which meant that the infotainment system is unable to talk to the device to figure out what it is. Now, he had done a lot of the troubleshooting for me, including running the update from Hyundai Canada that gives some owners of 2017 Hyundai Canada vehicles Apple CarPlay. But he wasn’t further ahead. Intrigued by this, I made a trip up to Newmarket Ontario to see this first hand.

The first thing that I noticed is that the BlackBerry Priv when plugged into the car wasn’t visible to the Android Auto instance that was installed on the car. That said to me that this wasn’t an Android Auto problem. The second thing that I noticed is that the car couldn’t see any of the media on the device. I reasoned that this was due to the BlackBerry Priv not being able to switch into MTP or Media Transfer Protocol mode properly which is what is required for the phone and the infotainment system to talk to each other. That was further confirmed when I observed that when the phone was plugged in, a notification would display that it was in charging mode. When I tapped the notification, it gave me the option to switch to MTP. But when I did that, I observed it trying to do so and failing. Then the infotainment system would give the “not media compatible” error message. However, there was one occasion where upon connecting it, it did work and Android Auto popped up fine. But I was unable to replicate that success again.

What I believed was going on was that BlackBerry had altered the behavior of how Android interacts with the USB ports in the interest securing the device from being hacked via the USB port, and that was affecting the ability to connect to Android Auto. How to overcome that I honestly had no idea. But based on what I observed, the owner of the phone was able to come up with a way around this issue. He put the phone into developer mode and enable USB debugging mode. By doing that, Android Auto now works. Likely because he’s bypassing the security that BlackBerry puts on the device.

Here’s why what he did is a #fail:

  1. The fact that developer mode even exists on a phone that is supposed to be secure is a #fail because he was able to bypass some of the security that the BlackBerry Priv offers via instructions found easily using Google. If you can do that, how truly secure can the phone be?
  2. It’s pretty clear that BlackBerry didn’t test the Priv out with Android Auto before shipping it. That seems to be backed up by people who own VW’s or Honda products among others who are having similar issues. What’s doubly strange is that a lot of infotainment systems in cars have the QNX operating system running on them, and BlackBerry owns QNX. You’d think that one BlackBerry product would talk to another BlackBerry product. But clearly that’s not the case.

But what’s really problematic about this whole situation is that this person could have been caught in the middle of two companies pointing fingers at each other had he pursued this on his own. In other words, Hyundai would blame BlackBerry, and vice versa with no real resolution to the issue. Not to pump my own tires here, but you have to wonder what might have happened to this person had I not got involved to provide some assistance.

I have an offer to the folks at BlackBerry. The person I worked with on this is a fan of your products. I am willing to put you in touch with him so that you can fix this issue for him and all your customers. Seeing as he’s within 90 minutes of your headquarters in Waterloo, this is a great opportunity to see this first hand. You’d really score some brownie points with him and I’d post a very positive follow up on that front. Just reach out to me and we can get the ball rolling. Seriously. While you’re at it, you may want to look at the fact that developer mode even exists on this device as that’s a bit of a problem from a security standpoint as illustrated here.

So how about it BlackBerry? Will you take me up on my offer?

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One Response to “BlackBerry Priv, Android Auto, And Other Oddities Of Life”

  1. Your post is biased towards the blackberry. The dev mode is available for users to be able to download apps on the phone without bowing down to google’s play store. One can also upgrade and downgrade the operating system using dev mode among other things.

    Android auto has a list of approved headsets. Its not that blackberry doesn’t test their stuff. The priv is not on the android auto approved list. Neither are some variations of the Samsung S5, s6 and S7 phones. The best phones for AA are the LG and Google Nexus phones.

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