Almost 50,000 BlackBerry Apps Come From One Developer
One developer has almost 50,000 apps in BlackBerry World out of BlackBerry’s approximately 235,000 total apps. No, that’s not a typo. 50,000 .
As first discovered by BerryReview . the Hong Kong-based development shop S4BB has developed tens of thousands of apps for BlackBerry 10 and legacy BBOS devices.
The apps run the gamut from specific app locks to city guides and maps to custom searches for various web sites. Most of the apps are based on a template, which is then modified for a specific application, language or city. Very few are high quality and offer much value, but aren’t quite what I would classify as spam.
When BlackBerry 10 was unveiled in January, BlackBerry bragged that it was launching with more than 70,000 apps. In the last seven months, that number has grown to more than 120,000 apps.
On the surface, this looks like strong growth, but what does it mean when such a huge quantity of apps come via port-a-thons or one single development shop?
The discovery of S4BB’s number of apps in BlackBerry World underscores a basic problem I have found with BlackBerry 10 since its launch: a lack of apps that matter.
In this era of smartphone apps, It’s really not about hundreds of thousands of apps, it’s about key apps that people actually want to use.
This problem isn’t unique to just BlackBerry. Windows Phone has had similar struggles (for example, Instagram isn’t available for Windows Phone yet). In the last few months, however, Microsoft and the Windows Phone platform is slowly but surely making gains in those key app categories.
Last month, Vine debuted for Nokia Windows Phones, and Path and Flipboard announced their intentions to join the Windows Phone party.
Signs of Bigger Problems
BlackBerry’s app problems extend beyond the huge swath of apps from one developer. The company has had a hard time getting independent developers — not to mention bigger well-established brands — to embrace its platform.
Part of the reason can be attributed to the shrinking base of BlackBerry users in key markets such as the United States, but I believe the problem is even bigger. BlackBerry’s messaging around its app development process is a complete mess.
To build an app for BlackBerry 10, developers have options — and too many options at that. Developers can build HTML5 apps using WebWorks or tools from companies like Sencha or Appcelerator. Developers can also build “native” BB10 apps using the company’s Cascades framework. And for some reason, BlackBerry also lets developers bring their Android apps to BlackBerry 10, using an embedded version of the Android runtime in its own instance inside an app. The Android runtime will get a major update with the next major BlackBerry 10 release, but in my experience, most apps that come to BlackBerry 10 via ports have a sub-par user experience and suffer from performance issues.
Simply put, there are just too many options for developers to choose from; many developers won’t target BlackBerry at all. At the BlackBerry Live event in May, most of the developers I spoke with could be grouped into two camps: Developers with one or two simple BlackBerry apps who were still evaluating their BlackBerry roadmap, and developers with 30 or more apps that were often little more than simple wrappers around an RSS feed or or a cookie-cutter app template.
Many members in the latter group created so many apps because of BlackBerry’s “perks,” which include cash for porting Android apps, guaranteed income for “Built for BlackBerry apps” or free PlayBook tablets or Z10 devices.
BlackBerry: Fix the App Mess
If BlackBerry is to get back on track, it has to attack its app problem. This means offering real incentives to the developers that need to be on the platform, not giving peanuts to the guys who make a currency converter or guidebook for a city with 1,100 residents. It also means deciding on a singular development strategy; too many options make it easier to forgo altogether.
Although it might hurt BlackBerry’s ability to tell investors it has “X many apps” in BlackBerry World, I suggest putting tighter constraints on the app approval process and discouraging developers from submitting hundreds of identical apps.
Back in 2009, Apple cracked down on what was then the third-largest iPhone developer, removing his nearly 1,000 apps from its store. Four years later, lots of developers have hundreds of apps — and yes, plenty of developers abuse the system with cookie-cutter apps. But Apple has also enforced guidelines to discourage this type of behavior.
Android has plenty of cookie-cutter app, too (though no developer I’m aware of is as prolific on Android). But the problem is obviously less concerning because the platform has apps that users actually want.
In this case, “the other guys have bad apps too” excuse doesn’t work. Not least of which because the actual app discovery process on BlackBerry 10 is so horrendous, searching for something innocuous likes “maps” will turn up three dozen apps — many of which are just carbon copies of the same template.
Do you think BlackBerry should limit the number of apps a developer can build? Let us know in the comments.
Image: Mashable, Christina Warren; Screenshot: BlackBerry World