Family-friendly fare leads the best new iOS, Android apps of August

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Jason

Sooner rather than later, we may not have BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) to kick around anymore: This month the embattled device maker's board of directors formed a special committee to explore strategic alternatives, including a possible sale. The news broke just days before research firm Gartner reported that sales of smartphones running Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone operating system outpaced BlackBerry device sales for the first time ever during the second quarter of 2013. Consumers across the globe purchased 7.4 million Windows Phone devices in the second quarter, up from 4 million in the year-ago period and corresponding to 3.3 percent smartphone market share, while BlackBerry sales slipped from 8 million in the second quarter of 2012 to 6.2 million in the most recent quarter, and its market share plummeted from 5.2 percent a year ago to just 2.7 percent.

It's impossible to identify just one culprit behind BlackBerry's fall from grace, but any thorough discussion of the company's woes must include both the quantity and quality of applications available for download in its BlackBerry World storefront. There are only about 120,000 apps optimized for BlackBerry 10, and roughly 20 percent are repurposed from code originally written for Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. BlackBerry itself has admitted that its customers aggressively dislike Android ports, however: Most work on BlackBerry 10 smartphones, but they can't access all core device features. "From a commercial perspective, users hate them," BlackBerry Development Head Alec Saunders recently told CNet. "Our partners who have ported apps get dinged for them."

But those Android ports are positively cutting-edge compared to the staggering 47,000 apps built by just one developer, S4BB Limited. Yes, a single vendor is responsible more than one third of all BlackBerry World apps, and its catalog is a farce--a lazy, uninspired collection of city guides, phrasebooks and apps designed around RSS feeds from sources like the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service. Many S4BB submissions are simply audiobooks offered in an app wrapper.

BlackBerry chalked up the proliferation of S4BB apps to the flaws in the open market model. "Developers in all app stores employ a number of different monetization tactics. BlackBerry World is an open market for developers and we let market forces dictate the success or failure of these tactics," a BlackBerry spokesperson said. "Discoverability in overcrowded stores continues to be an issue affecting all developers. This is why we have worked hand in hand with developers on the Built for BlackBerry program to help showcase apps and games that exemplify the power of BlackBerry 10."

If you're an iOS or Android user, you mostly don't have to deal with these headaches. You have the world's best and brightest developers creating groundbreaking new applications each and every month, and August is no exception. Click here for my picks of the cream of this month's crop--and after you're done reading, maybe send any loved ones still clinging to BlackBerry a sympathy card. Or stage an intervention. It's your call.

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--Jason

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