BlackBerry App World: Show Me the Relevant Apps

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 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.

For images of BlackBerry App World, click here.

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 such placement.

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.