Where Apple leads others often follow. There is no clearer example of this than the number of companies lining up to copy the App Store concept that Apple introduced on the iPhone. Microsoft has already announced that it will open the shop doors of Windows Marketplace for Mobile when Windows Mobile 6.5 finally arrives, Palm says that the Pre will have an on-phone application store called the Palm App Catalog, Google has already launched Android Market and now its RIM's turn with its own App World service. The question is, has RIM managed to match App Store's slick presentation and impressive ease of use with its own offering?
RIM originally announced that it was going to offer an on-phone application store back in October last year, but it's taken until now for it to actually get it up and running. Launched on 1 April in the UK, the service has already proved that it's no joke as it already has close to 1,000 applications after only a week of being online.
To access App World, Blackberry users have to download a small application from the website. This is naturally free and is compatible with all devices that run version 4.2 or higher of the Blackberry OS. Essentially this means it's only available on Blackberry models that have either a pearl-style mini track ball or a touchscreen. Older devices are left out in the cold.
Of course as Apple's App Store has proved to be wildly successful RIM hasn't strayed too far from the Apple model in terms of design and functionality, but it has managed to add some nice touches of its own. When you open App World you're presented with a large scrollable ticker at the top of the screen that is used to display 12 featured applications. These are applications that RIM has selected as the current top picks in the database. The selection is localised, so UK users won't be presented with lots of apps about American football or Canadian ice hockey, for example.
Generally the list will include a number of popular apps along with some new ones that are deemed worthy of having the spotlight shone on them. Blackberry says that these listings are not paid for, so they should be a genuine selection of interesting apps, rather than just those from big name developers with wads of cash to splurge on promotion.
Below this there are four icons marked Categories, Top Downloads, Search and My World. Selecting the Categories entry brings up a list that divides apps in the database into 13 categories ranging from Personal Finance & Banking, to Games, Travel and Sports & Recreation. As some of these categories have a large number of entries, they are mercifully further broken down into sub categories to make navigation easier.