My aunt asked for a bit of help a little earlier today with Beejive on her Blackberry (Apple-relatedness is coming — please do not panic), so I quickly took a look at her Bold 9700 (a 2009 device) and found that she was using Beejive for Blackberry OS 5.0, but that her Bold was running […]
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OT: Here is one reason why apps haven’t taken off on the Blackberry

My aunt asked for a bit of help a little earlier today with Beejive on her Blackberry (Apple-relatedness is coming — please do not panic), so I quickly took a look at her Bold 9700 (a 2009 device) and found that she was using Beejive for Blackberry OS 5.0, but that her Bold was running OS 6.0 from late 2010. Like the iPhone, the Blackberry is able to download and install apps over-the-air or via a desktop client, but since we were at my home, we opted to install Beejive over a 3G connection. A simple enough endeavour to update her 5.0 Beejive client to something that would work on 6.0, right?

Not really.

The first problem was that, for some reason, the Blackberry App World app, which I had used to help may aunt install Beejive in the first place, was just gone. She had it on 5.0, but after her update to OS 6.0, it was gone. I conducted a search for App World using the Bold’s built-in universal search, but all I found was some garbage Rogers-branded online store that loaded up in the mobile browser.

[As it turns out, App World isn’t actually pre-installed. Users that have upgraded their firmware have to install it manually by visiting a website within the browser, but I didn’t find that out until I sat down this evening to write this post.]

Luckily, my aunt pointed out that we could probably download the app through her browser by visiting Beejive’s website, and, to my surprise, it worked. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise, though. I used a Windows Mobile device for a few years before switching to the iPhone and I remember downloading all sorts of .cab files to install applications over-the-air.

Then, just as I confirmed that I wanted to download and install Beejive, the pop-ups started. I’d love to tell you what they really said, but as you can see in the picture I posted at the top of this post, the screen never let me scroll up to read the whole message. My best guess is that it was a warning about some sort of dependency that, if overwritten, had a chance of screwing up the way Beejive was working.

However, since Beejive wasn’t working at all, it was “Yes” all the way through. Literally all the way through.

I had to click through about 10 or 11 such dialogue boxes before the installation completed. I even looked for a ‘yes to all’ option to save some time, but there was none. So what should have been a 20-second installation ended up taking three minutes of intermittent clicking, downloading, and clicking, since the installation would halt itself while a pop-up was on screen. I won’t get melodramatic and call it nightmarish, but I will say that the process was a real pain, and should have been a lot simpler, considering that Blackberry OS 6.0 was only released last fall (it’s actually ‘newer’ than iOS 4.0 in that sense).

Compare this problematic installation (which was much smoother on Blackberry OS 5.0, mind you) to my experience with Beejive, the same messenger app, on my sister’s iPod Touch. We simply found Beejive on the App Store, tapped on it twice to initiate the installation, entered a password, and then waited as we were brought to the relevant home screen to watch the app install itself. That was it.

That’s not to say that the App Store is perfect, of course. I’ve had my fair share of installation mess-ups and it’s still a real pain to switch between multiple iTunes accounts, but for most users who don’t read tech blogs, like my aunt, the process is dead simple and just works. Installing Beejive — or any app, for that matter — on the Blackberry is far more trouble in comparison. Not only is the process more long-winded, but it’s also needlessly more technical (what new user knows or wants to click ‘yes’ on a dialogue box she doesn’t even understand?).

I try not to end my posts on a negative note because it just isn’t good karma, but I have to say I found this experience of playing with apps on the Blackberry quite disappointing.  I realize that I am a tech enthusiast that writes specifically about Apple products, and I realize that this wasn’t the latest Blackberry device (though it was running the newest OS) , but I take almost every chance I get to play with other operating systems and see what other platforms are like, and it’s just plain sad how crappy the app experience is on a mainstream device like the BB Bold 9700. I can’t believe the App Store doesn’t come pre-installed as part of the OS (has RIM  learned nothing from Android Market and the App Store?), and I can’t believe how little the platform caters to its customers and its third-party apps.

 

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