Review: BlackBerry App World in PlayBook OS 2.0

IMG_00000242

Ah, the famous BlackBerry App World. Not to be confused with the other BlackBerry App World for smartphones, this one is PlayBook-only . Taking a first look at the new App World after the 2.0 update, you’ll notice that there have been some big visual changes. The user interface has also been spruced up with a strictly tile-based arrangement of apps and games that are “Featured”, which should vaguely remind you of Microsoft’s Metro UI.

You’ll see big name apps such as Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, Evernote, Groupon and so on. As far as games go, the Playbook is fairly stacked, despite what all the haters say. You’ve got Spiderman, Need for Speed, Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Plants vs. Zombies, Samurai II: Vengeance, Madden 12, Dead Space, Fruits and Ninja, UNO, N.O.V.A, SimCity Deluxe, Monopoly, Modern Combat 2, and many other high quality games. Anyone who says the PlayBook “doesn’t have any games” is mistaken. The PlayBook has many of the games that most people want and they run very well.

Despite having fewer games than Google’s marketplace or Apple’s App Store, I feel that the selection and quality is enough for the vast majority of people. Remember, the PlayBook does not have the luxury of having any smartphone apps to pull from.

Looking at the Apps section, you’re going to notice a shortage of quality apps. That’s not saying that there are “no apps” and that you won’t find any good ones. You do have “Facebook”, “Evernote”, “Scoremobile”, “Scrapbook”, “Kobo”, “Cineplex” and great Twitter and Dropbox apps with “Blaq” and “Bluebox”, any many, many others. This is just saying that many of the apps some may consider mandatory on a platform such as Skype, Netflix and Kindle just aren’t there (yet). Well, that’s not entirely true. With a bit of tech-wizardry, the Kindle app does exists for the PlayBook.

The number of apps has also increased with the addition of quite a few “Android” applications. The thing is, they aren’t Android apps anymore. They’re all BlackBerry apps now (insert evil laugh here)! They have been assimilated into the BlackBerry Platform. You usually won’t be able to tell if the app was Android in another life or not. Most are initially marked with the letter “T”, representing a “Teen” content rating. Oddly enough, I wouldn’t put too much faith into the content ratings of the apps. RIM thinks even the app called “Kiddo Plus 0-5” is for only suitable for teens ages thirteen and older, while even “Backbreaker 2 Vengeance” is intended for all audiences. I’m sure the apps will be updated with more accurate content ratings in time.

But other than some organizational changes and more apps, there’s nothing fundamentally different. You’ve got four tabs at the top left of the screen that can lead you to the “Featured”, “Games”, “Apps” or “My World” sections just like before.

But aside from these visual changes, the performance of the App World itself still needs to be improved. The interface is still too clunky and laggy when compared to the new PIM apps. The frame rate is noticeably slow through the transitions. Also, only one application can be downloaded at once, which isn’t too much of an issue because most apps download fairly quickly.

However, other annoyances still persist. When downloading a new app and scrolling through the list of apps that you have either installed or deleted, you are automatically brought to the top of the list once the app has finished downloading. This is annoying since re-scrolling through your list of apps is not a fun experience, especially when you have over a hundred apps .

Overall, the new App World provides some minor improvements over the previous version. The general layout is less basic, and remains nice and functional. As far as app count goes, of course it doesn’t compare to the size of Apple’s or Google’s app offerings. And that’s not really a bad thing. You have most of the best mobile games. The app quality is average, and many more apps were added to App World with the 2.0 update, adding up to some number in the tens of thousands.

You can always argue that the app ecosystem of a tablet is crucial. But it just so happens to be less crucial to the PlayBook, coming pre-installed with many free features you’d otherwise need to download (and pay for) such as Docs to Go. When you also factor in the awesome price of the PlayBook, you’re savings hundreds of dollars by disregarding many apps that you will never even use. I know Skype, Netflix, and Infinity Blade are some apps that some feel they must have, but paying 300$ or more extra for just a handful of apps just seems like very poor value. With the PlayBook, having a decent App World you can access at amazing price is something that’s worth a good look.




Leave a Reply