REVIEW: eWEEK Labs' tests of Research In Motion's answer to Apple's App Store--BlackBerry App World--show that the RIM mobile device store provides a satisfactory experience but doesn't do enough to help users find relevant applications. Also, the store's reliance on PayPal for payment may be limiting.
Research In Motion this month launched its answer to the Apple App Store,
releasing a mobile application storefront for BlackBerry devices called App
World. eWEEK Labs did a little shopping and found that App World presents a
satisfactory on-device experience, but that RIM breaks no new ground in helping
users find relevant applications. Also, limiting payment options solely to
PayPal users could dissuade many potential customers.
Installing App World is a very straightforward process. From a
BlackBerry Curve 8900, I browsed to www.blackberry.com/appworld
to obtain the free installation package. Otherwise, I could browse to
that link from a PC and e-mail the download link to an account configured on
the device. With the package obtained, installation took less than a
minute but did require a device reboot to finish the process. The App
World application installed into the Downloads folder, but I could easily move
it to my primary menu for easier access.
The new store will work on most recent-generation BlackBerrys with software
Version 4.2 or higher. If the device has a roller ball or a touch-screen, the
store should work.
One of the major drawbacks of Apple's App Store has been difficulties in
organizing available content. As the store has grown in popularity and
thousands of applications have been added, developers have had an increasingly
hard time getting their products in front of users. Likewise, users have a
limited number of options for getting suitable apps presented to them. Lists of
top downloads and staff selections are the primary vehicles of exploration, and
many submitted applications never see either of those lists.
Unfortunately, with the initial App World launch, RIM has done little to address
the visibility problem. Indeed, App World may actually be worse than the
App Store once development hits a critical mass: App World has fewer lists
than the App Store, and exploration of the App World catalog is somewhat
constrained because App World is accessible only from BlackBerry devices.
App World's primary means of introducing apps to users is the Featured Items
panel, which is presented to users immediately upon starting App World. Featured
Items highlights a limited number of paid and free applications (commonly 12 to
14 at one time) that users can peruse by scrolling side to side. At the
April CTIA show in Las Vegas, RIM executives hinted that Featured Items
placement was determined by a number of factors (such as number of downloads
and newness), but they also wanted to make it clear that vendors could not buy
Other tools for finding applications can be found among a series of four
tabs at the bottom of the Featured Items screen. One tab leads to a Top 25
Downloads list, and another to a category browsing tool, divided into 13 top-level
categories. The third tool is a reasonably snappy (at least over Wi-Fi) Search
tool, which searches through the application title and descriptive text for
matches. At this time, however, App World Search doesn't support tagging,
which would help developers further classify their offerings.
The fourth tab leads to MyWorld, which displays all applications on a device
installed via AppWorld. MyWorld shows the size of each application, and
provides quick links to run or uninstall each application, view screenshots or
reviews, and add a review. However, I found some applications-namely, ones
on the device by default but updated via App World (like AIM
or Yahoo Messenger)-could not be run from within MyWorld.
Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.