When RIM announced BlackBerry App World last week, excitement ran high. The long-awaited application haven became a must-download for the BlackBerry geeks among us. It’s been about a week since that date, so we’ve had time to get settled with the storefront. Does it live up to expectations? We’ll save that for a bit later in the article. For now, let’s take a walkthrough of the application, followed by our take on it — plus some input from the loyal BBGeeks readers.
Download and install
We went over how to download and install Blackberry App World on your device in our original post, but it’s worth repeating here. The first step is to go to PayPal.com and register for an account if you don’t have one already. PayPal is the exclusive checkout system of App World, so if you plan to explore the paid applications this is a necessity. It doesn’t take long, and you don’t need to enter much information. If you’re going to add funds to your account, I suggest you verify your account (instructions will be within your account page). This way you can transfer money back and forth between your PayPal and your bank account. To install App World, you can either go to the blackberry.com download site. This will provide you with the system requirements (OS 4.2 and up), and a place to enter your email address. Make sure to enter the one hooked up to your BlackBerry, because RIM will then send you an email with the download link. For those who want to skip that process, you can go to blackberry.com/appworld/download from your device and download the storefront OTA. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the application, you’re set to go.
Launching and browsing
The first screen you’ll see upon launching App World is for featured items. This comprises 16 applications of varying types. For instance, when I loaded it up on Monday morning it featured a number of IM clients — AIM, ICQ, Google Talk — Guitar Hero III, an AP News application, Viigo, and a few others. This seems like a good place to discover popular applications — though if you read BBGeeks and other sites which discuss BlackBerry applications you’re probably already familiar with a number of them. From there you can navigate using the four icons on the bottom of the screen. Top Downloads provides just that, a list of the most-downloaded applications. These again pretty popular and well-known applications, at least the ones populating the top of the list. Further down the list are apps like Slacker, Vlingo, and other BlackBerry mainstays. You can also browse by category, which we’ll go over next, search for applications, and view the applications you’ve already downloaded. The categories page is where most people will find what they’re looking for. This breaks down the applications into over a dozen categories, like Maps & Navigation, Sports, Social Networking & Sharing, Professional & Business, and more. The category with the most applications: Games. Is there any surprise? In fact, there’s a sub-menu in the Games category, so you can find the specific type of game you want.
Downloading and buying
Once you pick out an application you want, click on it and you’ll go to the application’s page. Here you’ll be able to read reviews, recommend the application, and view screenshots. There’s also a blurb about the application below those links, so you can also find out what the application is all about. At the bottom there’s information on the vendor, the version, and file size (always important for the application-hungry). Best of all, there’s a button to contact support, which will open up an email to the designated address. After hitting Purchase, you’ll see a prompt to either hit OK if you have a PayPal account, or to go to PayPal.com and create an account. Hit OK and you’ll go to a PayPal login page. Apparently, the email field is populated with your default email address. Change it if necessary, enter in your password, and hit Log In. From there you’ll get the final confirmation screen, where you can Buy Now or cancel your order. You can also view the Terms of Sale, if you’re interested in the convoluted mumbo jumbo.
While App World is a good outlet for free and paid applications, it’s not without its faults. First and foremost, it is incredibly slow. Agonizingly so. The initial load time isn’t so bad, but browsing around can take considerable time. Lists populate slowly, so the entire list won’t be available initially. You’ll have to wait for the next portion to load up, and then scroll. Even then, scrolling is slow and choppy. I found myself scrolling way past pages of applications because of the scrolling system. Icons also take forever to load. There’s no way to stop a download once you finished it. For instance, because the baseball season started yesterday, I wanted to download the yankees.com application. However, because of the choppy scrolling I clicked on dodgers.com instead. My itchy trackball finger clicked Buy Now quickly, launching the download. I tried to stop it, but to no avail. Thankfully, you can uninstall right from App World under My World. Speaking of free apps, I also wish there was a designated place for free applications. After all, not all of us want to pay for our applications. Plus, as we mentioned yesterday, App World does not yet support subscription services. This has apparently kept a few applications, like Gokivo, out of the APp World for now, even though they were offering a free 30-day trial for Bold users in hopes that subscription services would be up and running by the end of the trials. That should be available soon…hopefully.
A big thanks go to the followers of the BBGeeks Twitter feed. They expressed their criticisms of App World, too. Hopefully their complaints put things into better perspective. @LordShaper: I’d love the chance to play with app world… But australia isn’t allowed access yet @zegolf: AppWorld=Huge Letdown. Apps are too expensive to buy on a whim, no indication of device support, app memory issues. Lackluster. @latinatwix28: it sucks! Deleted from my bold @arogersphotos: I’m not all that impressed with it either. IMHO @ramaadam: App World make serious memory leaked, i think after chaching everything when i browse for apps. So it looks like memory leakage is a big issue. This isn’t something I’ve noticed yet, but oftentimes I’m oblivious to these things.
Conclusion: Good, but not quite there yet
The idea of BlackBerry App World is obviously a good one, and should ultimately pay off for BlackBerry users. However, as currently constituted it leaves a bit to be desired. Browsing by categories is tough as it is, and with more apps added it figures to get harder. Adding more sub-categories will be essential in the future. Separating free apps and paid apps would also be good for the end user, especially those who are only interested in the free content. And, of course, the lack of subscription-based apps hurts the store. RIM was quick to address issues when a few cropped up in the early goings. Hopefully they act with the same haste when fixing the obvious bugs in BlackBerry App World. If it continues working at a snail’s pace and continues to leak memory, people are just going to ditch it in favor of alternatives. It’s not like they don’t exist.