Why Developing for BlackBerry could be the Right Choice for you

Posted: February 9, 2011 in BlackBerry, Developers
Tags: , , ,

The keyboard-heavy design of most BlackBerrys to date has generally prevented them from cashing in on the touch-screen mania that has driven the market, but that doesn’t mean Research In Motion is wanting for attention. Indeed, its App World application market is already well-established, with users in 70 countries. Thirty-five million BlackBerry users have downloaded the program necessary to access the market, and they’re downloading apps at a rate of around 1.5 million per day.

Rather than filling the store with gimmicky, disposable apps like those that dominate in the app stores of Apple and Google, RIM is focusing its efforts on ‘Super Apps’ that integrate tightly with the BlackBerry’s functionality. For example, Super Apps might run in the background to link with social-media services, load at startup to permanently add new functionality to the device, or bind themselves to existing features to make the device work even better.

“We encourage developers to create apps that harness the innate capabilities of the device,” says RIM’s ANZ managing director Adele Beachley. “This creates a much more slick, contextualised experience for the end user.”

For example, Virgin Blue’s flight booking app not only allows users to book online, but integrates with their BlackBerry calendar to automatically check which flights will fit their schedule. Another app, BigTinCan BuzzMe, controls the BlackBerry’s multi-coloured status lights to indicate who is trying to get in touch with you: ignore it if it’s green, for example, but if the wife is on the line, it will blink blue.

Although its recently-released Torch is finally bringing RIM into the touch-phone sphere dominated by Apple and Google, its applications are still something of a different breed. There are only 1700 games, for example, but 460 apps classified as ‘business’ tools, 3700 ‘themes’, 884 ‘utilities’, and over 3000 ‘reference & e-books’ apps. Clearly, BlackBerry developers have a different priority than their eye candy-loving peers writing for other platforms.

Those that love their BlackBerrys, however, continue to love them: RIM-sponsored developer forums around the country are consistently selling out, and the company is a sponsor of the recently-established ‘Mobile Monday’ developer meetups. Australian developers are also participating in global development competitions like the BlackBerry Partners Fund’s recent ‘Super Apps’ Developer Challenge.

Getting into the BlackBerry mood isn’t an overnight decision, however: apps are of course written for the company’s BlackBerry OS 6, which uses Java. This might make it familiar for many developers, but BlackBerrys’ unique form factors mean that developers need to be careful to design apps’ user interface and overall functionality somewhat differently. This has made it a trailing contender in the eyes of many in the ‘Android generation’ where full functionality is valued and the touchscreen provides a lowest-common-denominator experience.

But if you’re a BlackBerry devotee and have some ideas about how you could make the platform even better, there may be no better time to up your skills and get involved. BlackBerry is far from a dying platform, and with a 35 million-strong user base out there, it’s entirely possible that you could end up building something the world values. With RIM’s PlayBook tablet due out later this year, you could also end up getting a foothold into the market for what could well become an extremely popular tablet platform.

“It’s been an interesting journey for us because we’ve come into the market from the enterprise side,” says Beachley. “But we’ve seen massive consumer uptake in our products. The latest handsets combine a full QWERTY keypad and a full capacitive touch experience, and we’re seeing a huge surge in folks wanting to develop for that quite-unique combination form factor. Developers are just so important, and we really want to embrace that community. ”

App Store: App World
Supports: Research In Motion BlackBerry OS
Web location: Here
Number of apps: 14,800
Number of developers: 300,000
Some popular apps: BeBuzz, Bubble Breaker, Jigsaw Plus, Hotel Tycoon Resort, MP3 Ringtone Creator, Assassins Creed II, Doodle Jump, Shazam Encore
Apps written in: Java
Developer tools: Here

  1. itsalexaye says:

    So to the developers out there, what platform do you currently develop on and why?

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