Poynt Wins BlackBerry Super Apps Challenge, We Go Hands-on

Yesterday RIM named local search app Poynt as the winner of its BlackBerry “Super Apps” Developers Challenge competition. Culled from an original group of almost 400 entrants, the lucky Canadian developer also beat out 9 other finalists. According to RIM, Poynt won the challenge by providing a “exceptional user experience.” But exactly what criteria makes a “Super App” a “Super App?” We’re not really sure either. Read on as we investigate further and find out what makes Poynt special.

RIM lays out six key criteria for an app to be deemed a “Super App” on its developer site; Always on, being highly contextualized and location aware, integration with other BlackBerry apps, connection to social media, strong notification and alerts, and strong energy efficiency. Now that’s a lot to for an app to live up to. We decided to see for ourselves what Poynt for BlackBerry was all about and how it differed significantly from point on Android.

To do our quick test, we attempted to replicate a demo RIM had shown us, searching for a restaurant and trying to make a quick reservation. The place we chose was the Modern, an ultra-fancy, uber-popular location in Midtown Manhattan where calling ahead makes sense.

First we fired up Poynt on a BlackBerry Torch and were greeted with a carousel of options which let us choose between finding restaurants, people, movies, gas, etc. Clicking restaurants let us  find nearby spots, search by cuisine, or name. We quickly located The Modern and were pleased to see an OpenTable icon indicating this available feature.Tapping the listing brought up a menu center-screen. From there, hitting “reserve a table” launched the mobile browser and delivered us to OpenTable’s listing for the restaurant. Strangely, the OpenTable app isn’t launched. So much for deep app integration.

To compare, we tried the same restaurant reservation process using Poynt on an HTC Incredible running Android 2.2 (Froyo) . To our surprise the procedure had only a few differences. We got a vertical list when clicking on a restaurant listing, but what stood out was how Poynt on Android launched our installed OpenTable app, whisking us directly to The Modern’s reservation screen. Pretty elegant. This begs the question, how is Poynt so super on BlackBerry as opposed to Android? We’re not sure either.

Delving deeper, we asked Ian MacDonald who manages developer programs at RIM, just what makes a “Super App” better than the same app on a competing OS. We also wanted to know what a “Super App” is anyway. He explained the whole concept of a “Super App” is really a vision set out by RIM to influence app design. He also said that expanding on things which the BlackBerry OS has done well for years is what really makes an app super,  i.e; multitasking, data compression, and push instead of the less-efficient pull data model. The question remains whether what’s super on BlackBerry OS is just plain ordinary on Android.

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