BlackBerry App World, the applications store for BlackBerry smartphones, has opened for business. There's a lot to like about the store: It's easy to install on your phone, neatly organized, and easy to use. But right now, it's simply not ready to compete with the iPhone's App Store.
App World can be downloaded to phones running version 4.2 or later of the BlackBerry OS by pointing your phone's browser to blackberry.com/appworld. You need to have a phone with a touch screen or a trackball, which includes all recent BlackBerry model, including the Curve, Pearl, Bold, and Storm, among others. You'll also need a PayPal account to purchase applications; if you don't have one, you can sign up at paypal.com.
Once App World is up and running on your BlackBerry (the installation process takes just a few minutes), the first thing you'll see is several featured apps--just like you do when you open Apple's App Store on your iPhone. And, just as you can in the App Store, you can browse through categories (such as games or news) and see the most popular apps. The similarities don't end there. Once you click on an app, you can see the publisher's description and read user reviews. And then you can click a link to download it directly to your phone. So far, so good.
(Relatively) Small Selection and Other Issues
The biggest problem that App World faces right now is its relatively meager selection of titles. It launched with 700 apps available, and upped that number to 1,000 by the end of its first week in business. But 1,000 apps is merely a drop in the bucket compared to the more than 30,000 apps available in the iPhone's App Store. I think that 30,000 is actually a bit too many--you'll often have a hard time weeding out the trash from the treasures--but 1,000 apps feels a bit confined. This is a problem that should resolve itself over time, however, as more and more developers create BlackBerry applications.
A greater issue to me is RIM's pricing scheme. Apps can be free, but if they're available for purchase, prices start at $2.99. You won't find any 99 cent or $1.99 apps in BlackBerry App World. I think this is a missed opportunity. I find it much more palatable to pay a dollar for an app than to invest $3 right off the bat.
My last complaint is related to the BlackBerry operating system. Once you download an application from App World, it's automatically filed into a folder called "downloads." You'll also see a folder called "applications," and you might expect your applications to land in there. But you'd be disappointed. Overall, the folder structure is confusing and redundant. Apple's system, where each app gets its own icon on your desktop, is far more elegant.
A Good Start
Despite these issues, I think BlackBerry App World shows lots of potential. If you already have a BlackBerry, you'll want to download it right away. And if you've held off on buying a BlackBerry because of a lack of software titles, this ought to make you reconsider. As it stands now, BlackBerry App World is pretty good. And once it's stocked with a few more apps, it will be even better.