I’ve been taking my first look at the BlackBerry App World.
App World is designed to do for the BlackBerry what the App Store has done for the iPhone: make it easy for users to get hold of third party software direct to their device.
This boosts the profile of the device as a multi-use tool, can encourage the use of the mobile network thanks to apps which grab data over the air, and increase revenues for the device manufacturers who inevitably take a cut on the profits of sold software. On paper it sounds like a win for the network, win for the device manufacturer, and win for the end user.
RIM is not the only company in on the act. Microsoft has announced its own application store. The originally rather bizarrely named Skymarket is now to be called Windows Marketplace for Mobile. It won’t be available till later this year though.
So, back to the BlackBerry.
The App World is only available in the US, Canada and the UK at present. You have to download the application to your device from www.blackberry.com/appworld. It will only install on devices running BlackBerry software version 4.2 or higher and they must have a trackball or touchscreen.
Once the software is downloaded it self installs, in my case on the BlackBerry Storm into the Downloads folder. Click it to open and you are ready to choose your applications.
They are organised in three ways. There is a carousel offering ‘Featured Items’. Nine of them in my case and all free downloads. This listing will change over time, so you get so see at a glance what’s new or what’s hot.
Alternatively you can opt for the ‘Top Downloads’ listing. This shows the 25 most popular downloads. In my case, looking at App World on its launch day yesterday, all bar one of the apps was free. To get a charged for app, incidentally, you’ll need a PayPal account.
The third option is to mooch through the application categories. At launch these ran to: entertainment, games, maps and navigation, music and video, news and weather, personal finance and banking, personal health and wellness, productivity and utilities, professional and business, reference and ebooks, social networking and sharing, sports and recreation, travel.
Oh – and you can search for particular apps by keyword too.
I found the download process painless and the process of looking around through applications listings easy. There are already quite a lot of applications to choose from – RIM anticipates that there will be a thousand by the end of the first week.
I can see how the system could easily boost device use in ways owners had not previously considered.
However, given its penchant for business users and the underlying ethos that a BlackBerry is a serious device whether in consumer’s or professional’s hands, RIM might not be too pleased that on launch day, of the 25 applications in the Top Downloads listing, the only one which commanded a fee was an application for playing fake fart effects. It doesn’t look like this was an April fool, either, as the app was still listed as a top download on 2nd April.
See what happens when you let the people decide?