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5 Reasons App World Could Hurt The BlackBerry

RIM's mobile application store, App World, is set to launch this month. Here's what could happen as it takes on Apple's AppStore and the Google Android Market.

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BlackBerry App World is BlackBerry maker Research In Motion's answer to similar mobile application stores like Apple's iTunes-based AppStore and the Google Android Market. It's an area where BlackBerry smartphone users can buy and download applications and a platform for application developers to submit their creations for inclusion.

While it's still too soon to tell exactly what App World has in store, scrolling through the App World FAQ page uncovers a handful of things that may work against the widely popular smartphone maker as it plays catch-up with two of its largest competitors.

1. RIM Ignored The 99 Cent Price Point

According to the pricing structure for applications that are going to be available through App World, RIM has neglected the 99 cent and $1.99 application price points that are a sweet spot for the competition. RIM has indicated that the store will offer free applications. From there, applications jump to $2.99 and increase in $1 increments up to $19.99. The cost of applications increases in $10 increments from $19.99 to $99.99; $50 increments from $99.99 to $599.99; and $100 increments from $599.99 to $999.99, where the pricing model maxes out.

With paid applications starting at $2.99, it's not completely out of the question that an application that goes for nearly $3 in BlackBerry App World would be available for 99 cents in both Apple's AppStore and the Android Market. Setting the lowest application price at $2.99 could work against RIM when users can get the same application cheaper somewhere else.

RIM could be setting the price higher to appease developers and weed out weaker applications. RIM could also be trying to entice more enterprise-focused applications, users of which would be willing to spend a little more. But in this recession, forcing users to pay triple for a mobile application from RIM could drive users away.

2. It Costs $200 For Developers To Submit Applications

According to BlackBerry App World, there is a $200 administration fee for developers to register and submit applications. That fee covers 10 application submissions. Once 10 applications are submitted for approval, developers must plunk down another $200. That $200 will be refunded if a developer's account is not approved, RIM said.

A $200 fee to submit applications is quite pricey. Granted, developers get to choose the price of their applications and will retain about 80 percent of the revenue they generate, but dropping two Benjamins just to submit applications is asking too much. That's more than double the price Apple charges for its standard developer program for iPhone applications. The higher cost could drive away potential developers, pushing them to build their applications for the iPhone or for Android Market, saving BlackBerry application development for the rich folk.

3. BlackBerry App World Won't Work On All BlackBerries

Granted, BlackBerry users are a loyal lot and tend to upgrade to a new device with frequency. But App World will only work on a select number of newer-model BlackBerry smartphones, leaving users clinging to their older devices, like the 7290, out of luck. That means a massive chunk of BlackBerry users will have to buy a new device, or forget about App World altogether.

According to RIM, App World will only work with BlackBerry smartphones running OS version 4.2.0 or higher and it will only work on the BlackBerry Bold 9000, BlackBerry Storm, BlackBerry Pearl Flip, BlackBerry Curve 8300, BlackBerry Curve 8900, BlackBerry 8800 and BlackBerry Pearl. Basically, App World is only supported on devices with a trackball or, in the case of the Storm, a SurePress touch-screen. That leaves out a whole segment of track-wheel BlackBerry devices.

Lack of support on older devices is limiting the reach of App World, which could hurt the store's performance. It could also drive users to another device manufacturer if they feel left out.

4. Applications Must Be Purchased Using PayPal

BlackBerry App Store users will be required to register with eBay-owned electronic payment site PayPal if they want to buy applications, and it will be the only form of payment accepted. While other application stores let users link a credit card to their accounts, BlackBerry App World is going the PayPal route. While PayPal users can link credit cards and bank accounts to their PayPal accounts, it adds an extra step to the process. Many consumers may be apprehensive about using PayPal as a form of payment and prefer to use a simple credit card. While PayPal does not require users to enter financial information every time they make a purchase, some users are more comfortable when they're in control of the transaction. For some users, the requirement to set up a PayPal account could be a deal-breaker.

5. Most BlackBerries Have Small Screens

This one is more a matter of personal taste, but with the exception of the touch-screen BlackBerry Storm, the displays on most BlackBerries are small, especially when compared to the wide screens offered on the Apple iPhone 3G and the Google Android-based T-Mobile G1. The iPhone and the G1 were built with applications in mind, offering a large, crisp screen to work in applications. The small square screens of most BlackBerry smartphones won't be the best medium for graphic-intensive applications. For the money BlackBerry is planning to charge for applications, users are going to want the most bang for their buck, and they likely won't get it on a small screen that measures just a couple of square inches.

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