Beta Review: App World 3.0 From a Developer and User Experience Perspective

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blackberry app world 3.0

BlackBerry App World 3.0 has launched and is up in Beta Zone. The latest version, according to RIM, makes “discovering and downloading apps, games, and themes easier than ever.” We’ve tried the new App World on both a well-established device, the Torch 9800, and a brand new device, the Bold 9930. There are some major pros and cons about this latest version and we thought we’d put together a beta review since App World has become such an important part of the BlackBerry experience. To recap, App World 3.0 features:

Sleek New Design – The BlackBerry App World experience has been enhanced to help you discover the latest and greatest apps and content, starting right on the BlackBerry App World home screen where rotating spotlight banners show off all that’s new and exciting.
New Channels – Apps, Games, and Themes now have their own channels so you can get to what you want even faster. Each channel offers up a whole range of Categories, Top Lists (for Paid, Free, Rated, New Arrivals) and a Search Bar.
Introduction of My Account – My Account makes managing your BBID and payment options easy with direct access to all of your account information from the home screen.
New My World Features – My World gives you a streamlined view of all your apps and their status, and now at a glance, in addition to seeing which apps are installed and uninstalled, you can manage your subscription content and services. When new updates or subscription renewals are available for your apps, you’ll be notified using push technology.
App Social Sharing – When you find an app you can’t live without, share it with your contacts directly from the app details screen through BBM, Facebook, Twitter, email and SMS.
Evolved App Details Screen – At a glance, you can get a quick summary, check out reviews and star ratings, take a look at screen shots, and more.
More Search Options - Quickly find apps with a Search Bar now appearing on the storefront home screen and search results are presented across Channels as well as My World. Search Bars are also within each Channel and users have the ability to filter by App Name, Price, Rating, Newest, Best Match, or Popular.

Both developers and consumers are crucial end users of this product so it’s important to review App World 3.0 from both perspectives. Click through for more about how App World 3.0 may impact both of these user types.

From a user perspective:

The new App World makes discovering content much easier and the first thing you notice is the search field. Searching for apps used to be a bit of a pain but now you get search in a BlackBerry 6 style. BlackBerry 6′s Universal Search style is now in App World and when you enter a search term, App World lets you know where that term appears in Apps, Themes, Games, etc.. There are also more ways to refine your search including Free, Trial, Paid, and 3+ Stars. Again, like Universal Search, App World lets you know how many instances of the keyword appear under each filter. Overall, app search in 3.0 is greatly improved and makes finding apps much easier.

One thing that seems to be gone is an overall “Top Free”, “Top Paid” and “Top 25″. Now, the Top categories exist only within categories such as games, apps and themes. This approach does make some sense because it adds more discovery within the categories, but there are many users that will probably miss having an overview of the entire app market and see what is the top regardless of category.

As a general note on the look of App World 3.0: it could use some work. The previous version of App World actually looked much better with a unified color scheme and consistent branding. The new icons are all over the place in terms of colors and the background has a somewhat amateur horizon effect. It’s great that App World has become more visual, and the use of icons over lists is a cool change, but it would be better if the icons weren’t so “kindgergarten”. One gets the impression they’re using an app made by Zeebu and not browsing a RIM app.

From a developer perspective:

Something that is really disconcerting about the new App World is the lack of featured items in the carousel, and the addition of “featured categories”. When you load App World on the 9930, there are 15 spots for featured apps and currently, 5 of them are taken by category features. On the Torch 9800, there are 21 featured items and 5 featured categories. It’s important to realize that this is a beta review and the number of featured apps could be easily changed when it releases, but the fact that we’re now seeing featured categories makes us think it’s highly likely the number of primary features will decrease. When we say “primary features”, we mean featured apps in the carousel that aren’t a click away. Anyone who has worked in tech knows the value and drop-off rates for single clicks is significant, and while your app may be featured in a category, the chances of a user clicking through are greatly dimished. The previous version of App World currently has 35 spots for app features and all of these are less than a click away and there were no featured categories.

App World has also changed the way the featured carousel works by increasing the amount of space dedicated to buttons and the allowing the carousel to become hidden if the user scrolls down. This homepage strategy seems to put a greater emphasis on search rather than on carousel discovery. This in a sense makes App World a more even playing field for all apps in the system, but takes strength away from a feature.

Something else to note about App Categories is that there is no mention of them when you submit your app, so it seems like it’s a manual process on RIM’s behalf to add your app to that category. This is troubling because it’s possible that your app may end up in the wrong category, or it won’t get featured because it was misinterpreted by RIM as not a good fit for the category.

The fact that App World is moving so quick is great but what we need to see from RIM is also some development on the web portal side of App World. For some reason the App World app has been trucking along to version 3 while the developer portal seems stuck in version 1.1, even though it says version 3.0.1.4. The vendor portal in App World still needs better analytics tools, more visual user interface, less legal jargon and if they really wanted to impress, a native app version of the portal.

Final Thoughts:

There are some positive changes to App World in terms of user interface but there isn’t much in the way of new features. Users are really going to appreciate the fact that finding apps is a much easier process and the whole experience is more in-line with Universal Search. If RIM improves on the look and color-scheme (minor but still important), users will really love the new App World. Other than that, App World 3.0 could have done with at least 1 new killer feature such as implementation of Gift Cards. We’re pretty sure PayPal has a way of allowing for the purchase of Gift Cards without any code work required by RIM. Perhaps we have to wait for Dev Con for any major announcements around App World.

From what we see about the changes to the carousel and increased emphasis on search, we’re predicting that developers will see a greater number of downloads while not being featured and a smaller number of downloads while being featured. Hopefully the fact that app sharing is more front and center should help downloads too. It’s hard to say what the net effect will be, but we’ll be keeping tabs on certain apps and developers to see what difference App World 3.0 makes.

Are you a developer? Let us know what you think of the changes.

BlackBerry user? What do you think of the new App World?

Grab your copy of the new App World 3.0 from the Beta Zone.

UPDATE: Something not mentioned in this review because it’s a beta product and there’s sure to be issues but the app downloading process is really buggy. When you download an app it doesn’t take you to your My World section like previous App World versions did and we’re seeing a lot of bugs when it comes to displaying the apps. Again, it’s a beta product so we tried to stick to things that will likely not change when it becomes official.