BlackBerry App World: nine must-have fixes for the RIM App Store


2009 is the year of the mobile app store. Apple started the movement with the launch of its very successful iTunes App Store for iPhone in 2008, and then all cell phones followed suit. Today, Nokia operates the Ovi Store; Microsoft has the next Windows Marketplace for Mobile; Google uses Android Marketplace; and Research In Motion (RIM) manages BlackBerry App World.

BlackBerry App World icon screenshot
BlackBerry app world icon

The app store competition doesn’t stop at the platform level either, especially for the BlackBerry crowd. BlackBerry “app stores”, both on device and on PC, exist for many popular BlackBerry blogs like CrackBerry.com, BerryReview.com and BlackBerryRocks.com, although all are powered by the same engine: the Mobihand AppStore, which is arguably RIM’s biggest App World competitor. BPlay.com is another major player.

BlackBerry App World is defective as is – to say the least – but it is not beyond repair. I could probably list 20 or 30 minor issues that should eventually be fixed; however, I stick to the high level complaints here. The following nine suggested changes for App World could go a long way in making RIM’s app store more user-friendly and device-friendly.

(Note: The current version of BlackBerry App World, which can be obtained from the RIM website, is 1.0.0.30. For more details on App World content, read our best and worst BlackBerry App World. )

Memory problems

My biggest gripe with BlackBerry App World: It’s a memory hog. Damn, it’s a memory thief, stealing almost all of my free app memory every time I launch it and frequently rendering my device unusable until I reset it. (Of course my Bold doesn’t have a lot of app memory to start with, but that’s another story …)

screenshots showing BlackBerry App Memory before and after App World
BlackBerry application memory before and after App World

Today I hardly use App World because it launches my device in a loop every time I launch it. If RIM wants anyone to seriously consider App World as a viable app store option, it is imperative that they address these memory issues, whether through adding app memory at the device level, better controls built into the app itself or the ability to (finally) store apps on microSD memory cards.

RIM has a BlackBerry Knowledge Base article on the topic of App World memory management, but it just describes how to uninstall apps when your device is bogged down.

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My confusion of the world

In the My World section of BlackBerry App World, users can view their application activity. For example, all apps you download through App World should appear in My World, whether or not they are currently installed. You can quickly remove apps from your device or replace them. And you can also review and recommend software.

BlackBerry App World My World Screen
BlackBerry App World My World screen

The problem: My World turns out to be flaky and unreliable. Apps that I have installed in the past sometimes don’t show up at all, which means I can’t reinstall software that I have already uninstalled, even if I paid for it. And My World sometimes tells me that the apps that run on my device are not installed. Specifically, I downloaded a few free app trials and finally decided to upgrade to the full versions. But App World does not register that I upgraded, and My World only says that the trial version is not installed.

If RIM wants people to feel comfortable depositing money on App World offers, it had better make sure My World doesn’t just forget about past purchases. As it is, I have little faith in My World.

No backup option on PC

BlackBerry App World currently does not offer an easy PC-based method to save purchases or downloads. Of course my world is Assumed to achieve this goal by using “the cloud” for application backups. And astute users can find ways to back up third-party apps on their own.

I can only speak for myself, but I don’t trust the cloud to back up my purchases yet, and I won’t spend any more money on App World until RIM convinces me that their online backups are reliable, or that ‘he suggests another. possibility of backup.

Apple allows iPhone users to back up all of their App Store purchases to computers through iTunes, and it seems like a much more appropriate method.

Free AND commercial application lists

App World is broken down into four main sections, which appear on the main Featured Articles screen: Categories, Top Downloads, Search, and My World. The names are self-explanatory and my problem is with the first three. As it stands, there’s no easy way to look at free and “commercial” or paid apps separately. Free apps are grouped together alongside commercial apps, with no way to tell them apart, given the price.

The Categories, Top Downloads, and Search sections should all have separate free and commercial breakdowns, so users can easily view the free and paid options without scrolling through ad pages and checking prices. Such a breakdown would not only give users more control over what they are looking for, but would also most likely result in the sale of more apps, which is obviously a good thing for RIM and its developer base.

Honestly, I don’t know a single developer who sees App World as a real lucrative opportunity, and that’s largely because RIM puts tons of free apps on users’ faces while burying paid content. For example, the top 25 BlackBerry App World downloads are currently free apps. Top Downloads is quite possibly the place that most users choose to start looking for apps, unless they’re looking for something in particular, and the fact that there aren’t two Top Downloads pages – one for free apps, one for paid ones – definitely doesn’t help.

Promote new worthy applications

RIM would also do well to create some sort of section for new additions to App World. It’s very easy for apps to be buried in App World today, and it would be beneficial for everyone involved if there was some sort of “New Apps” page. As mentioned above, there is already a Featured Apps page, and some of those apps listed might be new. But most tend to be popular offers or apps from big or noteworthy entities, like the Associated Press, BNet, or Forbes.

App World offers and promotions

On that note, what better way to convince potential app buyers to take the plunge than by offering deals, price discounts and more? Why do you think your local supermarket, Wal-Mart, drugstore, whatever, constantly has weekly coupons and promotions? Well, because people tend to buy more goods and services if they feel like they’re making a deal. Some promotions can even be used to attract customers in the future.

I think that offering “Buy two apps, get one free” promotions, or something similar, could go a long way in increasing App World software sales, although developers should obviously accept such discounts.

Additional payment options

Currently, the only way for BlackBerry App World users to purchase software is through the online payment service PayPal. If you don’t already have a PayPal account, you must create one and link a credit card to it before you can download any commercial software.

PayPal purchase screen in BlackBerry App World
PayPal purchase screen in BlackBerry App World

PayPal is practically a dirty word in the information security world. It is by far the number one online payment service. It is also the online financial service most often targeted by an equally large margin. PayPal does a good job of educating its customers about the phishing and identity theft threats related to its service – check your email filter, I can pretty much guarantee some of them are using PayPal as bait – but it doesn’t there is not much to do.

I’m not saying RIM should ditch PayPal altogether, but it should certainly offer additional payment options, like Google Checkout, for those who would rather avoid PayPal altogether.

Wider availability

BlackBerry devices are everywhere; CrackBerry Nation spans all global borders. Still, App World is only available in the US, Canada, and UK. I’m not going to pretend to know all the reasons RIM only made App World available in these regions. But I do know that App World could definitely benefit from a global user base.

More users would have access to more software. Developers would have more eyes to look at their deals, and potentially more wallets would open up to pay for them. And RIM would benefit more from it. Everybody wins. (Shout at @Funaki, who is in Bahrain, but would love to test drive App World.)

More flatulence simulation apps

I’ve been saying this since the April launch: BlackBerry App World is in desperate need of more gas simulation apps, that is, fart apps. Currently, only four such apps are available on App World, compared to a dozen on the iTunes App Store.

Fart apps are the foundation of any quality mobile software store, and RIM and its BlackBerry developer base would be wise to step up production of such offerings.

(Note: I’m being facetious here, and I think it’s clear … I just wanted to cover my ass – a gloriously intended pun.)

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.



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