The App World 2.0 press event was special for BlackBerry but it also reinforced how App World was still behind relative to the competition. The most important upgrades offered were long overdue such as credit card account-based billing. The BlackBerry ID account system will make it easier than ever to buy content, and it seemed to hint at greater media channel opportunities down the line to every BlackBerry user on the planet.
What pleased me about the App World 2.0 demonstration was the fluidity and finesse of the navigation. The BlackBerry Messenger-like layout translates into a simple amount of menu options and easy browsing of long lists in the way that BlackBerry pioneered: scrolling down. The new storefront is quickly populated by apps and info by way of improved cashing of App World data. Category switching from side to side makes a lot of sense and I can’t wait until they introduce more categories like gaming.
Consumer market potential
Something that stuck with me from the press event was the shift in focus from the other app world showcases that feature mostly utilities, towards entertainment and personalization. It’s like they’ve realized a glass ceiling of how many utilities and enterprise applications can be sold and have shifted their attention on growing the consumer culture for themes, accessories, and personalized content. That’s not to say that enterprise won’t be eventually catered to with App World, but rather consumer focus is a short term priority as we’ve said countless times on BlackBerryCool.
Marketing and managing Apps
The new system for app management in App World 2.0 called MyWorld will keep a list of your software. Not only does this make migration a breeze, but it also gives you full control over which software you want to reinstall. The QR code scanning for App World download links adds a fun element to loading software. It also encourages developers to advertise BlackBerry software on billboards, which will elevate the BlackBerry brand.
Fun Money: the consumer side of App World
The companies that were invited to showcase their wares at the App World 2.0 press conference were focused on the BlackBerry consumer as opposed to the BlackBerry professional. Having these companies representing the fun side of App World was felt like a nerd hiring a cheerleader to make him cool. The apps were cool, but there wasn’t a single application that was BlackBerry only.
Personal Audio and On-Demand Video
There were three online audio services there: RDIO
, and iheartradio. I like this format of smartphone content. Getting personalized audio programming to your device is ideal for the platform and makes much more sense than watching a movie on your device. Video isn’t all that enjoyable and it’s something that I can only tolerate on a laptop and above.
Speaking of video, Fox had an On-Demand video presence with a service called Bitbop. This subscription-based video service (now in beta) will deliver both streaming and downloadable movies and TV programs to BlackBerry. The subscription fee is about $10, which is just right for such a service. I don’t like watching video on my mobile for a variety of reasons but I can imagine this being a killer app for those with a long commute.
Representing the gaming industry was Gameloft. They were showing off their latest mobile adventure title: Assassin’s Creed 2. The game looked slick and fast-paced. The controls seem well suited for the mobile as it was based on hitting the right cues as opposed to controlling your character outright. Assassin’s Creed 2 costs $4.99 in App World.
Location location location
GPS has been making a consumer splash and there were a few GPS-based solutions showcased.
Foursquare is a mobile service that updates your friends on your location. You set your location by checking in to a venue, and you share your whereabouts with your list of approved friends. Satisfying certain conditions earns you badges, which turns the whole process into a fun game. The service is a great discovery tool that is made better through active users and businesses that offer deals to foursquare users.
Buzzd was also there. The service uses Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare, and Gowalla to figure out what’s going on around you. They have a great system of sorting out the chatter from the various social networks to quickly let you know what’s creating a buzz in your city. I was pleased with how they implemented so much data into something both relevant and timely.
Poynt is the final nail in the coffin of the Yellow Pages. The only reason you would ever order the Yellow Pages is for use as a booster seat or for kindle for your fireplace. Getting its start as a location-based movie and restaurant search, Poynt has turned into the ultimate location-based directory for nearly everything entertainment and services. Check for the cheapest gas stations, movies, restaurants, and anything else the Yellow Pages used to do before being retired to watch your mailroom.
Cases, skins and custom etched battery doors.
Coveroo was showing off their laser etching printer and made lots of custom-etched backs for everyone. Their service offers cataloged or custom battery door laser etchings for under $40. You don’t even have to send them your current battery door; they have every OEM door in their impressive inventory eliminating the need for you to send them yours.
RIM had a rainbow of skins for every current BlackBerry. These are the same official skins that can be found at the Authentic BlackBerry Accessory store. I’m glad RIM is getting wise to how much people need to personalize their devices. To customize a device a few years ago you would have get into some pretty serious warranty voiding.
Themes were not represented at all during the showcase. This is really strange considering how significant themes are in the marketplace. Maybe it was unrealistic to give preferential treatment to just a couple of theme developers. I would have been pleased to speak with someone who works with themes within RIM, especially in light of the new dedicated App World themes category.
Features for feature phones, Apps for smartphones
There has been shift in how smartphones are marketed. When smartphones first hit the scene, it was big news when a new hardware feature got introduced. A built-in 1.2 megapixel camera without a flash was big news when there were few camera phones. A phone-based media player was also welcome news even if you had to use a non-standard headphone jack and some proprietary headphones in order to listen.
Now with most smartphones possessing similar capabilities, a new arms race has emerged. The old focus was on building in new functionality and features into mobile devices. With the smartphone age entering its adolescence a new battle is about to be fought: APP WARS.
Apps, apps and more apps
Unless you’ve been living under a rock that blocks data communications to your device for the last couple of years, you’ve seen the app war rage in print, Billboards and on TV. You see the major smartphone platforms run ad campaigns featuring the now ubiquitous mobile application icons. These small colorful squares are supposed to symbolize the sky’s-the-limit potential of what you can configure your smartphone to do. This media blitz seems to be effective too; I hear lots more people talk about mobile software. I’ve also had more than my fair share of annoying conversations in which someone drops “there’s an app for that” in a “that’s what she said” sort of style.
Smartphones are more than the sum of their parts and software is the only way to achieve this higher state of functionality. Mobile applications represent a huge market today, and that market is expected to grow rapidly when smartphones become the norm in the next five years. I’m not sure why all the big mobile platforms market the app lifestyle in such an uninspired and similar manner: look at any app ad within the last two years and you’ll see a smartphone exploding with app icons. When I look at what the research groups are projecting for future smartphone application sales, I can hardly blame them for playing it safe with their marketing tactics.
Stay tuned for more App World 2 launch details.