Research in Motion on Thursday confirmed details of a major revamp of its App World software-purchasing service, including changes to the user interface, support for Quick Response barcodes and new payment methods.
App World 2.0 will use a new Top 25 screen to make apps easier to find, RIM said in an official blog post. The screen will list the newest applications and recently-updated applications, as well as Top 25 lists for free apps, paid apps and themes. The lists will be updated every 24 hours and rankings are based on a combination of download figures and user ratings, RIM said.
The shop will allow developers to use Quick Response (QR) barcodes to promote their software, a feature already supported by the Android and iPhone platforms. Users will be able to point the device's camera at a QR barcode — appearing on a website, for instance — and then use a menu option in App World 2.0 to call up a page for the application associated with that barcode.
The shop will add support for credit card billing, as well as integrating billing with certain mobile service providers, meaning app purchases can simply appear among the other items on a user's mobile service bill. Previously, BlackBerry users could only purchase software via PayPal.
In November of last year RIM announced payment APIs supporting micro-billing inside applications, including links into operator billing services, a feature RIM said is an advantage over the iPhone developer platform.
Finally, RIM said it will introduce a user identification feature called BlackBerry ID, which will allow users to manage their downloads and purchases in the App World's My World screen. BlackBerry ID is device-independent, allowing users to access their apps on any BlackBerry smartphone simply by logging in, RIM said.
The BlackBerry OS competes for the attention of users and developers with smartphone operating systems including the iPhone OS, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows Mobile. App World has about 6,500 applications, compared to more than 50,000 for Android Market and more than 225,000 for the iPhone App Store.
However, Ovum research published in May found that the BlackBerry OS has strong developer support, with 74 percent of surveyed developers working with the platform, compared to 81 percent for the iPhone OS, 66 percent for Windows Mobile and 64 percent for Android.
RIM said on Thursday that more than 25 million users have subscribed to App World. The company did not indicate a launch date for App World 2.0, but said users will shortly be able to participate in a limited beta-test of the service.