The long awaited BlackBerry App World has been released, giving RIM users an opportunity to get apps as easily as their iPhone using brethren. Or at least that is the intent. I have only tried using the program for a little while now, but my initial impression was that this should be something that is easy and intuitive, which, unfortunately it is not. Granted, I may be missing something, but so far it is not as straightforward as I expected.
First, you download the client by going to the BlackBerry App World website (http://na.blackberry.com/eng/services/appworld), and click to get an e-mail on your BlackBerry which will download the program. You can also install it via your desktop, but do not try using Chrome to do this, as it is an unsupported browser. So is FireFox. If you try to download the program using one of these programs you land on a page that states:
This web page uses ActiveX controls that work only in Microsoft Internet Explorer. To ensure that BlackBerry App World is correctly downloaded to your BlackBerry, this site is not designed to work with any other Internet browsers. If you cannot use Internet Explorer, you may be able to download the software directly to your BlackBerry smartphone.
The process is relatively quick, especially if performed through the desktop. This may also cause your BlackBerry to turn off. Once it has been installed, it can be accessed from the phone through the downloads folder in the menu.
In the BlackBerry App World, you are given different categories to choose from to find the desired application. The initial screen lists top downloads, but you also have the option to select categories ranging from Entertainment (15), Games (124), Maps & Navigation (8), Music & Video (10), News & Weather (17), Personal Finance & Banking (11), Personal Health & Wellness (11), Productivity & Utilities (101), Professional & Business (16), Reference & eBooks (65), Social Networking & Sharing (17), Sports & Recreation (37) and Travel (28). I am sure that as time goes on more applications will be added to each of these categories, but I thought it would be interesting to share the number of programs in each one at this point, and then compare a month or two out to see how it has grown.
There does not appear to be a simple way to view the available programs through the desktop. The BlackBerry App World page lists Featured BlackBerry Apps (http://na.blackberry.com/eng/services/appworld/featured.jsp) which you can read a brief description of, click a box to select and then choose to "confirm your selection". From there you can remove choices from the list, enter your e-mail address and have the link sent to your BlackBerry device to download the software. Unfortunately in this step you do not get information such as reviews (of which there may not be many yet), a full description of the software, or more importantly, price. You do not even get this information in the e-mail link and only learn the price of the software once you try to download it to the phone.
By visiting the store on the phone you can get pricing and user reviews. There does not seem to be any logical order for how the programs are displayed, or at least not one that is readily apparent. It is not alphabetical, or by price, or by rating.
Speaking of payment terms, the only accepted method is via PayPal. You do not have the option to include it in your cell phone bill, as you can with other software for other phones, or to enter in a credit card number, as you can with the iTunes App Store. This makes payment more cumbersome than is needed, especially for those of us without a PayPal account.
Finally is a look at some of the pricing. It is a bit difficult to determine exact duplicates of software between the BlackBerry App World and the iPhone App Store as even the same program will have different features due to the different interface. But for example, The Oregon Trail (a game I, as well as many others, played as a kid) is available in both stores with the BlackBerry version going for $4.99 and the iPhone version for $5.99. From a quick scan you also have a number of rather expensive apps in the World. There were at least four that I found priced at $59.99, not to mention the PEPID Emergency Physician Suite for $199.99. And yes, there are still fart apps, although they are running you $2.99.
Connectivity also seems to be a bit lacking when accessing the store. When trying to get to both the stores using the same Wi-Fi connection the iPhone store is very quick, opening within seconds. While on the flip side, the BlackBerry store takes so long to load that the backlight on the phone times out multiple times while trying to get to the initial screen.
I think this is a necessary first step for RIM to take, but given the offering available in the market I am surprised that it did not live up to my expectations. But time can only make this better, and hopefully RIM will put the time and effort into this to make it a more user-friendly system.