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BlackBerry App World Revealed: How Does it Stack Up Against the App Store?

app-worldWell, right away, “App World” doesn’t win any points in the name category. It sounds like a bargain basement retailer of remainder App Store stock. What it actually is, though, is BlackBerry’s new application store, the details of which were just unveiled last night. Perhaps not coincidentally, they announced their official plans on the same day the iPhone Developer’s SDK celebrates its one-year anniversary.

So should Apple (s aapl) take warning and batten down the hatches? You would think that the biggest fish in the smartphone pond getting into the direct download application game would be enough to rattle anyone. Let’s look at the details and see if there isn’t something to be afraid of.

Devices and Locations

Device support for App World will extend only to those handsets running BlackBerry OS 4.2 or higher, with either a trackball or the Storm’s touchscreen. The application portal will also initially be available only in the U.S. and Canada, and will support only English at launch, although plans to add other languages are in place.

Broad device support is a big win for BlackBerry, since their apps will then be available to a wider market of buyers using any recent BlackBerry hardware. Apple’s iPhone sales are growing, but it’s hard to compete in turns of market coverage when your opponent is giving away Pearls and Curves at the low end of the spectrum. The many devices advantage will be initially hurt by the lack of international support, but BlackBerry is probably ready to roll that out pretty quickly as long as the initial launch proves profitable. I don’t think it’s a “can’t do” thing, more like a “won’t do” until we’re sure it’ll make us money.

Available Memory

A big downside of App World is that BlackBerry users will only be able to download as many apps as fit in internal memory, which on most BlackBerry devices, is paltry. 256MB in the new BlackBerry Curve 8900. You can’t even buy a 256MB flash drive anymore, can you? It’s a problem G1 owners ran into, and it’ll be a problem for BlackBerry, too. Apps can’t be installed to memory cards, in case you were wondering. Apple may get knocked occasionally for lacking expandable memory on their iPhone, but at least the ample space they do provide is usable.


BlackBerry is getting a lot of attention for their pricing structure, which is laid out nicely over at our sister site jkOnTheRun. The key figure there is the starting price of $2.99. That means a serious lack of 99 cent fart and noisemaking apps. Look at the Top 25 Paid Apps list on your iPhone or iPod touch, if you have one. How many of those apps cost 99 cents? Say what you will about Apple’s pricing, it’s a big reason for the success of their model.

On the other hand, BlackBerry’s $2.99 entry point will hopefully discourage a lot of the throwaway apps that clutter up Apple’s store. They know that they still cater mostly to enterprise customers, and I’m sure they want to keep the selection geared towards that side of things, or at least towards the kind of apps that professionals can take home with them and use after work…which is unlikely to be a $2.99 shotgun noise simulator.


Games will probably end up being the most significant measure of comparison in terms of revenue generation, since they represent so many of Apple’s top sellers. I don’t see BlackBerry going for a “Funnest BlackBerry Ever” angle, or trying to compete with the DS and PSP, but stranger things have happened. More likely they’re looking to offer utilities as an incentive to sell handsets, and not trying to mimic the success of the App Store as a serious revenue-generating venture.

So in the end, I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to pit the two head-to-head against each other, unless BlackBerry has some unexpected hardware moves up its sleeve in the future that put it on par with the iPhone as an entertainment and gaming device. We’ll see what happens, but I don’t think App World will be able to take the wind out of the App Store’ sails.

28 Responses to “BlackBerry App World Revealed: How Does it Stack Up Against the App Store?”

  1. Joel Hafner

    It doesn’t surprise me to read this article. RIM misses the mark on each and everything that they do.

    They are fine with two different developers posting the same App name with the same functionality. They don’t realize how this discourages the developers from having a sense of ownership and they also don’t realize how bargain basement their store truly is.

    These guys won’t be along for long. The iPhone has taken off partly due to its Apps. Apple has encouraged the developer network and do not approve copycat Apps.

  2. The WAR has begun and it will be televised! The question is what will you watch it on? What everyone posted is absolutely true and I mean everyone! However, the question is more than “is app store better than app world”. The question(s) is what is the most versatile device, does it do what it claims, is it dependable, and how fast is it really? HTC (G1, HTC Touch Elite sold in Europe) phones have the fastest processors hands down but it means nothing if you are on a slow & undependable network or carrier. BB (RIM) are business oriented and are far more dependable than anything on the market and have proven that for some years now. Finally, those who are not so tech savi and work oriented are iPhone users and any other wanna be iPhone users (LG, …). It is true that Apple has changed the game and are the trailblazers of touchscreen and mp3 players. They have truly revolutionized the game but I don’t think they will be able to hold on to the title for long. Again, it is about versatile technology that is dependable, fast, and user friendly. The best example for everyone to ponder is from my own experience. I carry two devices with me all the time: my BB and my PSP. What one doesn’t handle the other one will surely clean up the remaining mess. The PSP is a capable device and in most instances outperformed any phone I have ever had. Yeah, it is not attached to a mobile carrier or network but through WIFI I can use Skype to make calls. Now let me tell you there are alot of high tech phones out there that don’t possess this mid-low tech feature. If your carrier goes down your phone is useless without WIFI technology. The company or persons that creates a device that has the dependability of BB, the user-friendly fun of iPhone, and the gameplay of a PSP will be on top for a very long time and there won’t be any discussions or arguments like this one ever! Until then, the point is mute; iPhone vs BB is like comparing apples to oranges (A little irony?Huh?). BB is for business and iPhone is for pleasure (fun); you choose but choose wisely. All carriers sell BB but only one carries iPhone!

  3. One thing is abundantly clear here, had Apple not led the way neither RIM, Palm, Nokia or even Micros**t would be onto touch screens (let alone multi-touch) or ‘app stores’ of any kind.
    The outsider came along and has jumped straight to the top. It’s taken almost two freaking years for RIM to answer Apple and this is it??
    Pray tell, who has the best customer satisfaction ratings of any handset? Is it RIM? Nokia? Nope. It’s Apple.

  4. Pinstriped84

    I realize this article is comparing app world vs the apple store…that being said, I agree completely with Nick

    “Why can’t people just realize what many have: the iPhone is a consumer device with a little corporate thrown in, and a BB is a corporate device with a little consumer thrown in.”

    This is exactly right. Don’t get me wrong, I have an IPOD Touch 8gb, I use a mac for work and also own a mac and pc for home use. I don’t want an I-Phone…simply not interested. I happen to enjoy the blackberry for getting my email and checking facebook or espn. Beyond that, it’s mostly email and tiny bit of web.

    The Blackberry is NOT the I-Phone, the sooner both Blackberry and I-Phone fans realize this, this argument of “which is better” can come to an end.

  5. itsalljustaride

    Also, App World blows hard. It’s only accessible via that handheld device, which means its slower than molasses, and you can’t even read the full title of some apps, and since there are no descriptions of what they do in the browser, I have to click them to even find out what the hell they are. At least if I could browse it on the web from my laptop I might find it useful.

  6. itsalljustaride


    “Clearly BB’s email is better”

    My BB Pearl can’t even do HTML mail. Links in the email app appear as plain text with markup and all, making an abominable mess in some messages. I was stunned when I bought it. Completely asinine. My T-Mobile contract is up in 2 months, and I get a new phone then, but if I don’t get a G1 I’ll jump ship for an iPhone. One thing is for sure though, RIM isn’t getting any more of my money. There are tons of phones out there that have better feature sets than anything RIM is offering.

  7. Why can’t people just realize what many have: the iPhone is a consumer device with a little corporate thrown in, and a BB is a corporate device with a little consumer thrown in.

    I bought a 1st generation blackberry pearl last summer and it worked fine with multiple apps. I was ready for a new phone and debated the iPhone but ended up going with the Bold because my main purpose is email and phone with occasionally browsing. Clearly iPhone’s browser is better. Clearly BB’s email is better. I personally like the real keys over the virtual keyboard.

    I love my MBP and wish my blackberry sync and management was a bit easier with it, but for me, I’d still prefer a Blackberry.

  8. @M:

    Have you browsed the web on an iPhone? It’s absolutely lightyears beyond what Opera mini or the Blackberry Storm offers. And though you have apps such as facebook/flickr/etc installed, their user experiences are no where near the level of the equivalent apps on the iPhone, and their feature set.

  9. @James Katt(#5):

    Most of the issues you mentioned can be addressed in a software update if Blackberry deems it necessary.

    Also, what 140+ apps do you use on a regular basis? I can’t imagine a need for that many. Games would be great but I have a DS for that. I use it mostly at home though. Also, check out Apple’s latest ad for the games. All but 1 of the games has some object being “controlled” by the accelorometer and turning left and right. If there was great level design, I could see this being fun more than once. Most of the games look boring. Super Monkey Ball is the pinnacle of accelerometer gaming. Sorry, they need to come with something better than a moving background and a player controlled object that rocks back and forth.

    On my Blackberry Storm I have installed Opera Mini, WeatherBug, Google Maps, Slacker Mobile, Myspace, Flickr and Facebook. The last two were already installed. I guess you can count Word/Sheets/Slideshow to Go as an app (Docs to go) but that was preinstalled too. With all of that, why would you need 140+ apps again?

    @Mettur (#9): The web browsing on my Blackberry Browser and Opera Mini are perfectly fine, thank you. I use the Blackberry one when it is required that the device be identified as a Blackberry. I use Opera Mini for everything else. The Storm browser works fine by me.

    My own thoughts on this topic is that RIM has made a mistake by pricing the apps so high. I really don’t like to spend that much on something that will be deleted eventually because I don’t use it. Other than that, their market share is going to be instantly huge if they have quality apps released for all devices. I’m sure thats why they are doing the BOGO…to put more devices in peoples hands and basically say “developers, look at our market share…spend your time where the money will be”.

    I think the Storm will continue to be refined, and will eventually gain market traction. I love the device and I think that those people who bought and returned it will wish they hadn’t come it’s next software release. That’s just my take.

  10. RIM to developers: Create a business app in 256 MB or less, for > $2.
    Is it harder for RIM to lose the hardnosed business suit image than Apple to show it’s business credentials?
    Business execs can demand an iphone, and withthe right security/mentality get it –
    see the recent quotes from Ballmer about Microsoft’s position (phone, apps, security, OS)

  11. They should have called it Buy-n-Large. While BB’s rep is as a business phone, its marketing has all been consumer and family oriented.

    I’m not sure about “broad market support”. Do you know how many handsets qualify as BB OS 4.2 capable? How many have trackballs or are Storms? I thought there were only 25M BBs out there. You take away all those scrollwheels, and how many do you have left? How many different screen sizes do you have? The iPhone and iPod touch market is now easily over 23M. That’s 4M iPhones in 07, 13M in 08, and 2+M so far in 09. And, there are easily 4+M iPod touches out there, for a total of over 23M iPhones and touches that pretty much have the same specs. I’m pretty sure BB does not have any combination of handsets with virtually the same specs so that a developer can write one app, without having to customize it, that amounts to over 23M.

  12. Mettur

    I have been using Blackberry for 4+ years now. It certainly is a great tool for my emails. Extremely reliable, especially handling my corporate emails along with gmails, yahoo mails it is great.

    I do two apps that are reliable, gmail & google map.

    But as for web browing, lets face it, Blackberry is totally useless. It is the most unreliable tool for web browsing. Often it locks up, I have to remove battery and put it back to get web access again. I just avoid web access.

    Now installing other apps, I am very skeptical how the apps will behave. If it cannot do the basic items, why bother with more apps.

    My spouse does have a iPhone. I wish I could dump my BB for iPhone, but I need my corporate email, and BB is the king on that, and my corporation does not support iPhone. So for now, I will stick with BB, but no app and no web :-(

  13. maccmann

    The apps go from free to $2.99. So what if someone wants to write an app and only charge $.99? What’s that all about?

    I have a co-worker who has a BB Storm. They should change it from BB to BFD. It’s not even close to the iPhone. Never will be.

  14. Gazoobee

    I think Blackberry might try to do some games, but I don’t think it will work. They don’t seem to get the consumer market at all yet. Their consumer product (as differentiated from their corporate stuff) is the Storm which universally sucks. they also have brand recognition, a cool name, and tons of opportunities to promote it, but they have failed on every turn so far.

    They send out mixed messages and don’t really know what they are doing when they try to do consumer level stuff. Like, instead of going for “friendly” and building on the Blackberry name, they pick “Bold” and “Storm” for their new product names? These sound like military operations or corporate project names, not consumer products. They are like schizophrenics right now, trying to move into consumer space to protect against iPhone intrusions, but not really doing it right.

  15. James Katt

    What a losing scenario for an app store Blackberry has.
    1. Create smartphones which do not have enough memory to have more than a few apps.
    2. Prevent storage of apps in storage cards.
    3. Price apps high enough to discourage impulse sales – and sales, period.

    Written on my iPhone at lunch with one of my 140+ apps.

  16. .99 apps are actually smart from a marketing and sales point of view. It means as a consumer it’s very easy for me to decide to purchase an app that is so cheap and that I’ll hardly feel any pain for buying. Where as once I start getting into 2.99 and 5.99 apps I have to give some thought on whether I want to start throwing my money around.

  17. Jennifer

    The available memory is what gets me. I know several people who are “anti-Mac” and bash Mac products, especially the iPhone, constantly. My brother-in-law raves about how his G-1 is better than my iPhone and some of my coworkers are all about Blackberry. I had a Berry, I know what it’s all about. I added one, count, ONE application on it (Facebook) and it would freeze all the time. Having to do a battery-pull (even with no apps installed) every other day was too much for me to take, so I dumped it for the iPhone. Never been happier with a smart phone since. I seriously don’t understand the people who rant and rave that their Berry/Palm/G-1 device is better than the iPhone. iPhone has thousands of apps available for a nominal price and doesn’t need expanded memory to use them (not like that’s an option on these other phones anyway). App World won’t do damage to App Store at all. Not even a little.