BlackBerry App World: All it's cracked up to be?

I stayed up to test BlackBerry's new application storefront for myself.

BlackBerry App World on the Bold
No joke, this application greeted me when I first ran BlackBerry's App World.Photo by CNET/Screenshot by Jessica Dolcourt

It's well past midnight here at CTIA 2009 and I have fought sleep to test out the new BlackBerry App World, the much ballyhooed 'rival' to the iPhone's App Store. As of 1:30 a.m. PDT, it has 11 social networking applications, 89 utilities, and 163 games. The BlackBerry App World is spinning on, but although I enjoy its layout, it's having a hard time living up to the hype.

First, I am emphatically not a fan of RIM's decision to tether all its BlackBerry users to PayPal as its payment processor. I see the logic behind it--PayPal is unified, while carriers are not, and many business users and prosumers who own BlackBerrys will already have PayPal accounts. I just don't like it. The real problem is, I just don't like PayPal, and I resent having had to sign up again just a few months after extricating my bank account and credit card number from PayPal. The PayPal chapter of my life will be yanked back open, at least if I want to use BlackBerry's App World. And I most definitely do.

Second annoyance: On a trackball device, you have to scroll through the entire end-user license agreement before the application will install. Thankfully, you'll only have to do this once. I had to do it twice, however, to load the storefront onto a Bold and a Curve, so it was twice the bummer.

Right now, the App World is operating on the BlackBerry Bold as I am post-midnight--sluggishly. It's definitely not as snappy as iPhone's App Store in the 3G performance department, and it's frustrating to stare at the green "loading" bar for long, fat seconds before a product page loads. Worst of all, the applications appear to only download to the device memory, completely ignoring my 8GB microSD card. I suspect this will lead to a lot of "incomplete memory" messages for a lot of folks.

That said, the first three applications downloaded fairly quickly and work like a charm. Even the PayPal portion of the process was painless, and I know the upshot is being able to reload all my free and purchased applications if I switch devices.

My advice to RIM is this: get the App World to spin a little faster and open up external memory for storing memory-demanding applications like games, and you'll have a profitable product that's also a win with your users. And do it fast.