The BlackBerry Pearl 3G aka 9100/9105, has been announced on major carriers such as Rogers and TELUS as well as it should be arriving on T-Mobile and WIND. The device hasn’t hit actual stores yet but there are some floating around in the wild, and it’s expected that the device will hit stores any day now. The problem, is that the team responsible for updating theme builder haven’t yet released a patch or new version, allowing theme designers to make 9100 themes, and therefore there may not be any themes available for the Pearl 3G when it hits stores.
In the past, there have been leaked versions of Theme Builder that have allowed theme developers to get an unofficial heads up and allowed them to have themes ready as soon as a new device hits stores. We haven’t seen any leaked copies of the updated theme builder or patch, which we would have been happy to share with theme developers in this post. Even if the blogosphere were able to provide a leaked copy of Theme Builder that supports 91XX devices, it’s an almost certainty that those themes would not be approved by App World. Going through the BlackBerryCool Store, there is a long list of themes available for the 9100 but I’m dubious that they actually work. I think this is a mistake in the system or a mislabeling issue on the part of theme developers.
When will the updated Theme Builder or patch launch? We’re not sure. A question on the official support forums asking “Will there be a new theme builder or upgrade package?” from May 11th remains unanswered and RIM hasn’t mentioned anything about it officially.
Another solution for getting 9100 themes to market involves hacking a JAD file. I know some theme developers have done this in the past, but I’m not even sure if it’s possible with the 9100. The Pearl 3G has a screen resolution of 360×400, which is unique in the BlackBerry product line. Either way, I haven’t seen any 9100 themes on the market yet.
As of May 31st, there are 1760 themes in App Word. There are around 4,000 apps in App World, not including games and themes, and over 5,000 including not including themes. Therefore, themes represent around 35% of App World content. When RIM announced that the BlackBerry Pearl 3G came preloaded with App World, they should have also included a footnote that says *with 35% less content than other BlackBerry devices.
From a marketing, sales and end user experience, the fact that the App World team is not synced with the Theme Builder team is a major content issue at RIM. It’s also a managerial problem that needs to be fixed if this incremental device launch strategy is to continue. Early adopters need access to themes and App World’s success is impeded by these obvious mistakes.
To fix the situation, I propose a BlackBerry Theme Developers Alliance Program. There are only a handful of companies in the theme building industry that are making premium themes and selling them on App World. Other than these companies, App World is generally plagued with thousands of “kids in their basement” hacking a theme together with limited graphic design skills. By creating an Alliance Program for premium theme developers, RIM could take the top companies submitting to App World, and provide them the following:
- Advanced “beta” copies of Theme Builder
- Troubleshooting help
- Members only forums
- Marketing support and co-branding (same as for apps but with themes as well)
- The ability to sell themes for devices that aren’t supported in the public version of Theme Builder
By implementing this sort of solution, anyone purchasing a new device can be guaranteed they’ll have themes available out-of-the-box. This will make for happy users and more sales for RIM in the end.