UI needs work in BlackBerry App World

As an extremely heavy BlackBerry user, I'm reluctant to switch to an iPhone despite the myriad clever applications available through Apple's iPhone App Store. BlackBerry's answer to Apple, BlackBerry App World, won't convince iPhone shoppers to buy a Storm instead. But it could keep me -- and a lot of other BB fans -- from rushing to switch to Apple.

I test-drove App World Wednesday morning on my 2008 Curve. I opened blackberry.com/appworld/download on my Curve's browser and clicked through a few jargony screens of OK, I Accept, OK. Presumably, App World will be built into future phones, so users won't have to go through these steps.

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App World looks a bit like Apple's store, but there's a big difference between the large, high-res display on an iPhone and the one on my BlackBerry -- I can only see a three apps at a time as I browse App World. With nearly 500 apps in the store already, I always have the feeling I'm missing something good offscreen.

My main gripe is that App World's interface isn't as intuitive as it could be. I quickly found the list of Top Downloads, all of which are free (there are many other apps you can buy for US$2.99, and PayPal is the only available means of payment.) But after I downloaded and installed the free AOL Instant Messenger app, I couldn't figure out how to navigate back to App World's home page.

Eventually I selected "Close" to shut down the program, which works on any BlackBerry application. Instead, App World took me back to its home page. With non-intuitive behavior like this, App World wouldn't survive a head-to-head shootout with Apple's store.

Executive summary: Install Taxi Magic, which enables you to summon a cab by thumbing rather than speaking to an operator, get a notification when your ride arrives, and bill the trip to your credit card. It's free.

For customers who upgrade and/or lose their phones often, App World will let you load your apps on three BlackBerry phones per year.

This story, "UI needs work in BlackBerry App World" was originally published by The Industry Standard.

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