These days, it seems fair to say that a mobile platform lives or dies by its app store, and fleshing out that selection is quite possibly the greatest challenge for a freshly launched OS like BlackBerry 10. For developers, it begs the question: Why develop a BlackBerry 10 app?
Enter the three-person BlackBerry Live panel of Troy Johnson of Magmic, Michael Le Du of Maxim, and Eric Davich of Songza. All three of the panelists have apps in the BlackBerry World app store (Magmic is a game company that features multiple apps in the storefront) and, over the course of the session, were asked about the benefits of BlackBerry 10 and why it was worth taking the risk of joining (what is currently) a fledgling platform.
Initially, easily the most common thread between the three developers was their praise of the ability to use NFC in their respective apps. It was odd, of course, to hear the developers say that NFC was such an attractive factor of BlackBerry 10, given that NFC is a feature that is readily compatible with other platforms as well (e.g. Android, Windows Phone).
Nevertheless, Davich was complimentary of the fact that his BlackBerry app had a feature in which users could share playlists via NFC by tapping their phones, while Le Du described how a user viewing a video using the Maxim app can tap his phone to that of another user to open the Maxim webpage to that video.
The crowd showed the most approval during Johnson’s response, however, as he actively demonstrated a feature in Magmic’s Texas Hold ‘Em Game where players can use NFC to instantly invite friends to private card tables. When an audience member called out that he happened to have the company’s game on his Z10, he was called up and asked to tap his phone against Johnson’s, at which point, sure enough, he automatically joined the private session.
Johnson openly acknowledged the crowd’s applause and apparent approval of the use of NFC in the app, saying, “This is peoples’ reaction to NFC. So when they hear that they can do this, they’re primed to enjoy the product before they get to the table.” Once again, however, while that’s not a bad way to argue the benefits of developing an app for BlackBerry 10, it does not present an exclusive benefit.
Perhaps more compelling — and convincing — was the way the three panelists touted the platform’s social benefits. Though BBM and other sharing features are not entirely unique concepts either, one could argue that they are exceptionally integrated into BlackBerry 10. “Music is inherently social,” said Davich, “so of course we have these options to share playlists, not just via NFC but also via BBM.”
Le Du also mentioned the Maxim app’s ability to share videos not just through NFC, but with friends through social networks. Maxim often holds contests that involve readers’ votes and/or picks, and people can promote either themselves or their picks through the app’s sharing feature, creating a whole other level of interaction.
But aside from all the praise that was being showered upon the features of the platform, it did appear that at least these three partners in particular developed their apps for BlackBerry 10 simply because it was beneficial from a business standpoint.
“There was a lot of fan demand for a BlackBerry version [of Songza],” said Davich, whose app originally started out on Android. “And our goal is to have it on any device that you can play music on. It allows us to reach more people.” Johnson shared a similar stance, saying, “For us, the cross-platform strategy is a huge advantage.”
It was Le Du, however, who addressed the matter from a more pragmatic viewpoint. “Part of the decision to go with BlackBerry 10 was to create an experience that’s ideal for showing Maxim content,” he said. “BlackBerry 10 allows us to showcase our content in a way that would be difficult to do on other platforms.”
Specifically, he was referring to the active frames feature of BlackBerry 10, in which minimized windows continuously update, giving the user a preview of new content being pulled in by the app. “Maxim is so visual and the app will automatically load up the latest videos [into the active frames]” Le Du said, “And it draws people back in to view more content.”
We asked why, if this was such a benefit, wouldn’t they develop the app for Windows Phone, a platform that uses lives tiles that are essentially the same as active frames?
“A big part of it was our relationship with BlackBerry,” said Le Du. “They provided us with an open channel for help and support.” He went on to explain that while Maxim was given the opportunity to be in the BlackBerry World store at the time of its launch, Windows Phone did not offer them that opportunity. Beggars can’t be choosers, and it could be because of such occurrences that the app total in BlackBerry World is closing in on that of the Windows Phone Store.
Given that BlackBerry and Windows Phone are battling it out for a distant third behind iOS and Android in terms of their respective app offerings, it seems like the wise move on BlackBerry’s part to reach out to as many partners as possible (and big name ones like Maxim are an extra plus). But in this case, said Le Du, the smaller selection was actually to Maxim’s benefit.
“It helps to be in a marketplace that is established, but not crowded,” said Le Du. “It helps us stand out.”