Woke up this morning to find an email in my inbox (well, technically in my Spam folder -- good thing I check that once in a while) from Blackberry letting me know that their App World is open for business. Went ahead and downloaded it onto my Curve and gave it a test drive -- here are some initial observations and a snapshot of my user experience:
* The navigation is pretty straightforward but definitely highlights the inferiority of the track wheel based nav of the Blackberry versus the finger swipe nav of the iPhone. The home screen is mostly dedicated to a horizontal scrolling presentaton of "Featured" apps, of which there are 11 - and the first one is (big surprise!) the Facebook app. Below the scroll area are four icons that you can navigate to and click on -- Categories, Top Downloads, Search and My World.
* A couple of things that, at first blush, may be a little bit surprising if you believe that the vast majority of Blackberry users are "older" (30+) and use the device primarily, if not exclusively, for business reasons:
1. Of the 529 apps that available, over 40% (227 to be exact) are in the "Games" category. The category with the second most apps (90) is "Productivity & Utilities" -- now that's more like it!
2. The top paid download (#23 in a list of 25) is PhoneyFarts -- so much for the sophistication of Blackberry users!
* Tried to download a paid app (PhoneyFarts -- what else?!) so that I could check out their payment integration with PayPal. The log in and purchase part of the process was extremely pain-free, but as the transaction was finalizing I got an error message letting me know that there were problems completing the purchase because of the system's inability to "obtain a license key." Not sure what that means other than a lost opportunity to Blackberry to convert a paying customer. And oddly enough, I got an email from PayPal with the subject line "Receipt for Your Payment" - hmm, wonder whether they actually charged me!
* So it now keeps getting worse . . . the app store seems to have frozen my device. I'm in the My World section of the app where I'm staring at the icon of my failed app purchase, and I can't navigate away from it whatsoever. Looks like it's time to do the old pull out the battery thing -- UGH!
* Tried to download another paid app - this time got a different error message letting me know that they're having trouble conecting to the App World server - strike two!!
* Finally tried to download a free app (Vegas Pool Sharks Lite) - and as they say, third time is a charm! App downloaded with no issues and the full functionality is intact. I can only assume that my problems with the first two tries had to do with the fact that they were paid apps and had some issues reconciling with the PayPal authentication system.
VERDICT: Not the best customer experience out of the gate, but as with any newly launched product, there are hiccups and bugs that I'm sure will be addressed. As a longtime Blackberry user, I for one am glad to have access to a native app store so that I can finally move on from Brickbreaker!