In searching for the top 10 Nook Color apps, we had to spend several hours playing with the popular eReader's new app store. While we were impressed with the selection and new features such as navigation, we also found some room for improvement.
What We Like
- Angry Birds. 'Nuff said.
- The selection in the app store is small, but not insignificant. We found several good and familiar apps in every category.
- Navigation: Barnes & Noble apparently gave developers the option to place Back and Menu keys in the notification bar if needed. Nook Color owners will be able to use apps in much the same way as they do on phones. When not needed, Back and menu simply don't show up. The N key on the bottom now also acts as a Back key within apps, though everywhere else it's still the Home key. Overall we think the Nook Color optimization of apps works well.
What We Don't
- Few free trials: Though Barnes & Noble gives developers the opportunity to offer free trials of paid apps to customers, very few take advantage of it. This is a detriment in an app store where the majority of titles aren't free. We found many apps for $0.99 and $1.99, but those that cost $4.99 and up really should offer either a few days of free use or limited use to entice buyers.
- Result limits: Browsing for apps has its frustrations on the Nook Color since you can only load 30 at a time and, if you lose your connection or accidentally back out of the screen, you have to start from the top. On an app's product page users can Add To Wishlist, but there's no way to sort apps by Wishlist status. And searching brings up not only apps, but books that match the keywords as well. As the store grows, this is going to be a bigger problem. It would make things easier if users could browse apps from their PC's browser in addition to on the device just as you can with the Google Android Market and Amazon's app store. B&N says that this feature is coming soon.
- Lack of Nav on Some Apps: Most apps include the Back and Menu buttons now, as we mentioned, but we noted one big exception: Angry Birds. The only way to quit this full screen game is to hit the N button multiple times until you go back to the very first screen, then the game will ask if you want to exit. We didn't see this on any other game or app, so we suspect that B&N made an exception for Rovio in order to get this game in their store. However, it doesn't provide the best experience.