BlackBerry App World Mini Review

RIM's BlackBerry App World--loaded with 392 apps and counting--launched at midnight tonight and we've been playing with it for long enough to bring you our initial impressions. To get it yourself, point your BlackBerry browser to for the free download. RIM expects 1,000 applications will be available by the end of the week. The applications range in price from freebies--for apps like Facebook and MySpace--to more expensive programs like the $19.99 e-Mobile GPS Companion and $11.99 game Guitar Hero III Mobile. One critical distinction between BlackBerry App World and the iPhone App Store is that you won't find any 99-cent apps in RIM's store. The minimum for paid apps is $2.99, ostensibly for creating more of a concrete quality gap between free and paid apps. Downloading BlackBerry App World took only a minute on a BlackBerry Curve 8330 from Verizon, and about 30 seconds on a BlackBerry Bold. When you first launch the App World store, you'll be greeted by a Featured Items screen, which shows a large 1 inch x 1 inch icon representing the application. The interface is clean, with colorful icons and sharp text on a dark background. To switch between Featured apps you simply have to flick your trackball left or right. To the right of the icon, RIM lists the application name, the publisher, how many stars it's been rated, and the price. Below the price is a small blurb on what the application is. (Bloomberg's application says "News, Stock quotes, leaders/laggers and more!). Below the icon and description there are four additional icons: one brings you to a Categories page, another links you to the top downloads page, one lets you search, and the last icon is called My World (which shows you everything you've downloaded). The aforementioned categories with # of apps in each are as follows: Entertainment (9), Games (126), Maps & Navigation (8), Music & Video (10) , News & Weather (17) , Personal Finance & Banking (9), Personal Health & Wellness (9), Productivity & Utilities (85), Professional & Business (14), Reference & eBooks (22), Social Networking & Sharing (17), Sports & Recreation (36), and Travel (17). If you click an application, you can choose to download it immediately or read reviews, view screen shots, and recommend the application. There's also a much longer description of the app on this page. So what's the downside? Well, you have to use PayPal to pay for any premium applications you want, which means impulse purchases are less likely. We'd like to see RIM partner with carriers to make this process less work. And the number of free apps, at least in the games category, seems to be skimpy at the moment. We were able to install and download the Bloomberg application in a speedy 35 seconds. It took 18 seconds to download the relatively small Pandora app. Overall, BlackBerry App World looks like it will become popular quickly, but RIM has a long way to go to catch up to the iPhone's 25,000-strong App Store. We like what we see so far, and the fact that you can runs apps in the background--we got a kick out of listening to Pandora while we continued to shop. But we'd like to see more free apps come online and an easier way to pay for premium programs.