Mossberg On BlackBerry App Store: 'Clumsier' Than iPhone's, 'But It Works'

BlackBerry maker RIM (RIMM) launched its App World, its answer to Apple’s wildly popular iPhone App Store, yesterday. Reaction among BlackBerry users was mixed: Some loved it, happy that they could get their hands on apps more easily. Some didn’t like it.

Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal‘s technology columnist, also gave App World a mixed review as his first take. In short, he says it’s a good thing that BlackBerry devices can finally download apps from a central store, and it works. But it’s “clumsier” than Apple’s iPhone store, and for something that RIM has had so long to nurture, there’s a surprising number of apps missing at launch.

From Walt’s blog post:

  • Perhaps the biggest flaw is that it doesn’t work on millions of old BlackBerry devices. (We’re OK with that — if RIM is going to survive the consumer smartphone war, it’s going to have to sell a heck of a lot more new devices.)
  • No Google, Amazon, Kindle apps. $3 AP news app stinks. No Twitter app. And the Facebook app is the “rudimentary” one that’s been available for a while.
  • But! A few fart apps, “something that seems so… unBlackBerry-like.”
  • Buying process is “harder” than on the iPhone.
  • Apps tend to be more expensive. Cheapest are $3.
  • You can only save apps to onboard memory, not an expansion card.
  • Apps aren’t downloaded to the Apps folder, but the Downloads folder.

The not-enough-apps problem could be a simple one for RIM to solve. All it has to do is wait and hope that developers will invest in their platform. It’s possible, given RIM’s large and growing user base, many will. Especially if BlackBerry owners show the same interest in using apps as iPhone owners have.

But the design flaws and lacking elegance will be trickier for RIM to fix. Not because these seem like particularly complex problems to solve. But mostly because it seems like RIM just doesn’t understand design and user experience like Apple does. Sure, they will make updates and fix some of the most glaring problems. But it’s pretty telling that the problems exist in the first place — something we’ve learned to expect from RIM.

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