updated 10:25 am EDT, Fri August 5, 2011
BlackBerry App World 3 now in Beta Zone
RIM set out to spark new life in its app community by rolling out BlackBerry App World 3.0 in the Beta Zone. Its new version is focused much more around finding apps and has a new home screen with much improved categories. Similar to the iPhone's App Store or the newer Android Market, the front now has more easily recognizable categories and finally promotes some of them, putting games and themes at the very front instead of having users dig.
The home also now has visibly curated recommendations instead of the more hands-off approach RIM has taken in the past. Again taking some cue from earlier stores, the top carousel now has Spotlight Banners, or headers that lead to a page of apps united around a theme rather than just their day of release or category. Outside of the banners, BlackBerry owners can filter by the top free or paid apps as well as both new releases and new updates.
Inside the app previews themselves, it's now much faster to see details, and screenshots as well as share apps through social networks, including BBM. More features bring search directly from the home screen and a new account page to quickly change payment options and the user's BlackBerry ID.
The update comes just as the first wave of BlackBerry 7 devices is about to arrive and should address a growing deficit in app count between the BlackBerry and other mobile platforms. Although RIM has been eager to tout that its OS has "super apps," it has just over 20,000 BlackBerry-native apps where Android has over 200,000 and Apple has beyond 425,000. The two-year-old App World is already being outpaced by Windows Phone even with Microsoft's much smaller device share.
Some of the slow adoption has been pinned on a lack of app discoverability. App World has often been accused of focusing on the same apps for months and relying too much on text-driven menus that make it hard for apps to stand out. RIM's reluctance to acknowledge games as a major driver of apps in gaming has also been a limitation and has given iOS a wide lead; gaming is only just now becoming a realistic possibility for RIM with BlackBerry 7 devices.