BlackBerry 10 and Why 70,000 Apps Aren't Enough
By Alistair Charlton | February 1, 2013 4:20 AM EST
When BlackBerry 10 was launched to the world on this week, the company boasted of having over 70,000 apps available from day one, but so far it's a case of quantity over quality.
Windows Phone had just 2,000 at launch, and app stores simply didn't exist when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. But times have changed, and a smartphone operating system lives or dies on the apps available for it.
Take Windows Phone 8 as an example. Bright, clear and intuitive; it's a completely new take on the mobile OS, but is severely let down by the lack of quality applications.
Sure, Facebook and Twitter are there, but they are both terrible, and Instagram is still missing. Setbacks like these are enough to put off potential buyers, especially when iOS and Android have huge catalogues of 750,000 apps each.
Of the 70,000 applications available for BlackBerry 10 on day one, the usual suspects of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and FourSquare are all present and correct, as are news apps from the Guardian, London Evening Standard, New York Times, Independent and others.
Some of these - especially Twitter and Facebook - are almost identical to the iOS and Android versions. This means they are at least familiar to new users, but exhibit some strange problems.
Twitter has a glitch where users in your timeline will sporadically appear with the wrong picture, and the direct message inbox seems to be completely missing as are your Lists.
Searching BlackBerry World is difficult if you know exactly what you're looking for, because there's only one home screen for apps and one for games. Beyond these - which highlight just eight free and eight paid-for items - you are left with vague categories to chose from and a search box.
By comparison, the iOS App Store has eight sections to its Featured page alone, along with charts for paid, free and grossing, and Genus recommendations tailored to you.
Put simply, searching for apps and games in BlackBerry World is a tedious exercise in tapping categories at random and scrolling through lists, it's not as engaging as the App Store or Google Play.
At the launch of BB10 we were promised Skype, WhatsApp and the entire Angry Birds back catalogue, but they aren't there yet. I know it's only day one, but if someone thinking of switching from iOS or Android to BlackBerry 10 sees that they will immediately lose out on utilities like these, then the purchase will be postponed.
Just one of the top 25 paid-for apps on the iOS App Store was available for BB10 on launch day (Angry Birds Star Wars) and unlike the Apple equivalent, BlackBerry World does not stock any free versions of the bird-chucking game, or let you download a trial, as you can with Windows Phone.
Major omissions from BlackBerry World include: Evernote, Flipboard, Temple Run, Fruit Ninja, Fifa, Football Manager, Cut The Rope and Minecraft, as well as Skype and Whatsapp - and you won't find anything from Sky or Google yet either.
For apps that are there, price is a problem. The game World of Goo costs £1.99 for iPhone and £2.99 for iPad, but is £5 for BlackBerry 10. Similarly, The Bard's Tale is £1.49 for iPhone and £4 for BlackBerry.
It's clear that some developers are hoping to cash in on the BlackBerry 10 launch and its relatively quiet app store. We found a UK train timetable app priced at £5, while another is free - as is visiting the National Rail website, although there isn't an official app yet.
Other apps that you would expect to be free include a Flickr upload tool for £1.50, an app to view Reddit, also for £1.50, and £2 for an app that applies Instagram-like filters, but doesn't link up with the service itself.
As for popular free apps, BBC News, Sport and iPlayer are there as such, but they are merely shortcuts that open the web browser and take you to the mobile site.
On the face of it, 70,000 apps at launch and a promise of 100,000 by March sounded good, but so far we've found it to be quantity above quality - directly challenging Thorsten Hein's assertion only a week before BlackBerry 10's launch.
For every decent app in BlackBerry World there are half a dozen knockoffs - search for Fruit Ninja and you get Strawberry Slash, Sushi Chop and three versions of Fruit Slice instead.
For social networking BlackBerry 10 isn't too bad - as long as Skype and WhatsApp arrive soon - but users who want to switch back to BlackBerry after investing time and money in iOS and Android will be left disappointed.
BlackBerry World will grow, just as other app stores have, but this growth needs to happen quickly and bring with it high quality apps and aggressive pricing if BlackBerry is to stand a chance of beating Windows Phone to third place in the smartphone market.
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