Nikhil SubramaniamJan 31, 2013 12:52:24 IST
BlackBerry has officially unveiled its new OS and a lot of the buzz surrounds the 70,000 apps that accompany it. Such a large number of apps is not something to laugh at, and the new devices—the touchscreen Z10 and the touch-and-type Q10—seem like good launchpads for the OS. However, despite launching with so many apps, BlackBerry 10 has loads of room for improvement.
Let’s look at the bright side first. The company decided to bundle apps for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare with the OS, and several more were shown off on stage at the launch event. Skype, Amazon Kindle (forthcoming), Rdio, Box, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, to name a few, are also available on the app store.
Popular apps visible here
This is the full list of the major apps BlackBerry announced at the event: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, WhatsApp, Amazon Kindle, New York Times, The Economist, MLB At Bat, ESPN Scorecenter, CBS Sports, PGA Tour, NHL Gamecenter, SportsTracker, ATP, UFC Cisco Webex, Bloomberg, Evernote, SAP, Citrix, Soundhound, The Weather Channel, BBC Top Gear, eMusic, Slacker, Songza, TuneIn Radio, Paper Camera, Box, DropBox, ooVoo, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Dictionary.com, Flixster, and Stubhub.
The general feeling is that the industry thoroughly backed BlackBerry on the app front. Bob Rosin, VP & GM of Business Development for Microsoft's Skype division, said during the launch, “We are excited about our plans to bring Skype to smartphones running the brand new BlackBerry 10 platform. We are working closely with BlackBerry to ensure Skype runs great on BlackBerry 10 devices. This will give BlackBerry 10 users a great Skype experience, including free voice and video calling, sending instant messages and text messages, sharing photos, videos and files, and calling to landlines and mobiles at Skype’s low rates.”
On the flipside, BlackBerry has failed to include many apps that may not have been smartphone staples a couple of years ago, but will be sorely missed in 2013. A YouTube app would have been a great addition, but BlackBerry preferred to point out that users can view videos on the browser. Multimedia apps like Netflix and Hulu, which are commonplace nowadays, have not been announced for the platform either. The Verge reports that Instagram has a version ready for BB 10, but it probably runs on the custom Android runtime BlackBerry has created for Android apps to be easily ported or accessed on their new devices.
The BlackBerry Z10 is a full touchscreen phone running on BB10
Many BlackBerry PlayBook apps are also available for download from the revamped app store. However, early reviews mention that almost all of them look terrible and the UI renders them in a weird manner. Sometimes buttons are even positioned out of screen, which really defeats their purpose.
Gamers considering moving to the new platform, however, won’t miss the popular games from their former OS. The games catalogue will include four Rovio titles (Angry Birds and Angry Birds Star Wars are included), Where's My Water, Where's My Perry, 15 games developed by EA (including Plants Vs. Zombies, Real Racing 3, Monopoly Millionaire, and Dead Space), 10 Gameloft titles (including NOVA 3, Asphalt 7, Spider-Man 4, Modern Combat 4, and Batman: The Dark Knight Rises), Jetpack Joyride HD, Fruit Ninja HD, Cut the Rope, and Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episodes 1 and 2. Whether this will be enough to attract the notoriously hungry appetite of gamers is another matter altogether.
Now available for BB 10 devices
But keep in mind the competition. Apple currently has 800,000 apps in its App Store and Google’s Play Store is expected to beat Apple to a million apps by mid-2013. Microsoft recently announced that it added 75,000 new apps to its library in 2012. So even the WP store boasts more apps than BB 10. It’s all well and good announcing the big-name apps for your OS, but how BlackBerry intends to lure indie developers, who have done so well with iOS and Android apps, or encourage development of BB10-specific apps, is still not clear.
There are encouraging signs though. The company has stated that it is willing to clear any technical or business-related barriers to get new apps on board. One example is the way BlackBerry dealt with WhatsApp, a competitor for the company’s own BlackBerry Messenger service. WhatsApp’s Vice President told The Verge that his company “decided we needed 'x, y, and z' and RIM (sic) said, 'we will make it happen for you, whatever it takes to give a really, really good native experience’." A beta version of the app will hit BB World soon. This shows how BlackBerry negotiated with the popular developers to bring their apps to its platform.
WhatsApp's developers worked closely with the BlackBerry team
However, one thing that BlackBerry World does well is provide an extensive collection of music, TV shows and movies, which are available at competitive prices (at least when compared to iTunes and Amazon’s offerings). However, multimedia content from BB World can only be downloaded to up to five devices, which seems like a heavy restriction at a time when cloud storage has come a long way.
There is no doubt in our minds that while BB 10 has launched with a great arsenal of apps, it needs to continually attract more development and porting to sustain it. Whatever the chinks in the UI or the OS experience, the success of the platform rests squarely on the app catalogue. BlackBerry has begun well, but it is crucial that it builds a place for itself in the minds of developers.