Today, Research In Motion (RIM) began offering BlackBerry smartphone "themes" for download from its BlackBerry App World mobile application store. The company announced last month at its annual BlackBerry Developer Conference that it was accepting developers' theme submissions for future inclusion in App World, so the news isn't exactly a surprise. But RIM didn't specify when it would start offering themes to the public via App World.
BlackBerry themes are software "skins" that alter the look and feel of your BlackBerry operating system. Themes don't significantly modify the functionality of your BlackBerry; rather, they're meant to assist users in customizing and personalizing devices. (Check out my BlackBerry theme tutorial for more on how to download and install BlackBerry themes.)
BlackBerry themes themselves aren't new, just new to RIM's official software store. In fact, BlackBerry themes have been around for years, but interested BlackBerry users had to download themes from "unofficial" mobile software stores like Mobihand and BPlay.com, or from independent theme makers. A variety of free themes can also be found on popular mobile forums like CrackBerry.com and dedicated theme sites like BlackBerryThemePark.com.
I see more than 100 themes for download from BlackBerry App World, and you can expect that number to increase fairly rapidly as more and more developers submit their works to RIM for inclusion in the store. Some themes are available for free in App World, but the most seem to be listed for a few dollars each. The most expensive themes I saw were tagged with $7.99 price tags, which are far too expensive, in my opinion--I've never used a theme that I think was worth much more than $5, and I've employed a lot of them.
App World users can view screenshots of the new themes before downloading, and each theme listing has a section for user reviews, so you can check out other peoples' impressions before committing.
Today, the organization of themes in App World needs some work. For instance, the categories are quite general and I can see it become confusing to organize and keep order. I think RIM will need to add more specific theme categories, and sub-categories, as the store fills up with different themes-types. Free and commercial, or paid, theme categories would be a big step in the right direction, as well.
But the themes were just added today, and it'll take some time for the BlackBerry-maker to determine the best way to classify and present themes over time. Overall, this is exciting news for BlackBerry users and developers, because themes are both a fun and easy way to customize BlackBerry smartphones and quick way for theme-makers to drum a few dollars.
On a related note, RIM recent released what it's calling the BlackBerry Theme Studio, which is a set of free development tools that lets anyone create their very own BlackBerry themes, though you should be forewarned: Making quality BlackBerry themes like the ones you'll find in App World isn't exactly "simple."
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