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CTIA: First Look At RIM's BlackBerry App World

RIM's take on the mobile application storefront came to full realization overnight with the launch of BlackBerry App World. I downloaded the application and took it for a spin. Instant verdict: Not bad.

RIM's take on the mobile application storefront came to full realization overnight with the launch of BlackBerry App World. I downloaded the application and took it for a spin. Instant verdict: Not bad.BlackBerry App World doesn't magically appear on the BlackBerry desktop. Rather, you have to download the application from RIM's web site first (here). Once you download it, it self-installs and you can launch it immediately after install.

The storefront is not the most graphically pleasing thing I've ever seen. It falls between the iPhone Apps Store and the Android Market. The home page is plastered with feature items and shows one at a time (on the Storm, anyway). You can scan through the top 15 featured apps, which included apps such as Yahoo Messenger, Facebook, iHeartRadio, Bloomberg, Myspace, AIM, and others. Clicking on any of them brings you to an information page about that application.

I hate to rag on RIM, but holy moly the UI looks very much like the iPhone Apps Store. You can download the app right away, look at reviews, see screen shots, and read a summary about what the application does. The basic features and functions are nearly identical to what Apple offers.

From the home screen, you can also access a search function, browse the top downloaded applications, and see what apps you've already downloaded. If you punch the BlackBerry key, you'll get a more extensive menu of things to do, such as sort through the categories.

There are 13 categories, including things such as entertainment, games, maps, music, news, reference, social networking and so on. The number of apps available in each category is listed next to the category name. Not accounting for any sort of overlap between categories, there are 366 applications available immediately starting today. The apps range from free to $60, which was the most expensive app I saw. Many apps are $3, $10, $20 and all price points in between.

Diving into each category, you simply get a list of the apps in there with a little thumbnail graphic next to the application name. You can also see the cost of the application and the rating of each app without opening up the app's specific page. There is also a search bar placed at the top and you can recommend applications to others.

The basic application itself is intuitive and easy to figure out. In my experience, loading the category pages and opening specific apps pages was sluggish. So much so, that I considered ending the application and giving up.

I downloaded the WeatherBug application. The 670kb download took approximately 30 seconds, and the app took another 30 seconds or so to install. After it installed, I launched the application. I gave the app permission to access my location data. That, unfortunately, took a while. Nearly 2 minutes passed before WeatherBug was able to find me in Las Vegas. After it did, it offered me the current temperature and conditions. There were links in the application to scan other data for travel, mapping, and alerts.

In effect, the store works. It gives BlackBerry users one place to go to locate and download applications for their devices. I wish it performed a little faster, but it gets the job done.

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