There is no question that the iPhone has a ton of applications, but a lot of us carry Blackberry smartphones. We want to see them sing and dance and make us happy, too. Among the all-too-many applications I’ve added and removed, here are my favorites.
A word of advice: do not try these applications with an uncharged battery or anything short of an unlimited data plan. For the record, I use a Blackberry Curve on the Verizon Wireless network.
Finally, these are my preferences. Please comment at the end of the story—I am interested in what you’re using, and why.
There are numerous players, but for streaming music my pick is Slacker. The name aside, you can stream their stations or create your own custom station to your PC, Mac, or Blackberry – or yes, even iPhone.
Slacker has well-developed stations, many with good subcategories. They range from toddler music to classical, jazz, and Broadway tunes to current hits. If you get a call while listening, Slacker places the music on pause and sends the call through. When you’re done with the call, just hit your trackball to restart your tunes.
You can store (or cache) these stations to the memory card in your phone. This is better for battery life than streaming, and it’s great to know you have the music when you may not have a signal. You need to hook your Blackberry up to the USB port on the computer to make this feature work, but it is well documented in FAQs on Slacker’s web site.
Always a plus is the ability to hear music through Bluetooth headsets that have A2DP functionality.
Slacker does nibble your battery power, but was better than I expected. The rare commercials and the six “song skips” per hour can be eliminated with a paid subscription.
There is an increase in venture capital dollars in Blackberry music, so expect new services to continue to emerge.
There are numerous ways to get news while connected, from news web sites to news readers. Readers collect not just the breaking news, but can target stories from sources that interest you. Google Reader and my preference, Viigo, are among the leaders in this category.
Google Reader requires you to know what you want to add, but makes it easy with a video to explain the reader and search box to help you find the news feeds to add.
When setting up Viigo, just select the news sources you want on your reader. Every few hours (or more frequently, if you choose), Viigo updates them. A number of popular sites are preloaded and you can add any web site with an RSS feed from your Blackberry or from your computer’s browser. Viigo adds additional categories including politics, weather, sports, entertainment (including reading classic books like “Don Quixote”), flight schedules, and stocks.
“We’ve been working on integrating social networks much more tightly into Viigo,” according to CEO Mark Ruddock; “… not only allowing you, for example, to Tweet [on Twitter] an interesting bit of news (or an article you are reading) with a single click, but also letting you follow your friends comments, replies, direct messages, etc. all without having to leave Viigo.”
Facebook and Twitter are enjoying an increase in popularity – and a lot of it now comes from mobile users.
Facebook has an application that, to me, is still a little funky. It doesn’t always sync your status when you update from the web client, and doesn’t have all the functionality as the desktop version. That said, it is still a great way to get some of the most used features to your Blackberry. E-mails, writing on walls and friend requests are just a few of the functions that perform flawlessly.
Twitter, the fast-growing ‘“what am I doing?” in 140 characters platform, has several reasonable clients from which to “tweet.”
Twitterberry is the most popular Twitter platform for Blackberry users. Power users want more hotkeys and the ability to retweet (or share) ideas of others – functions that are still lacking. Twitterberry is a stable way to keep well connected with the immediate world.
Twitpic, Qik, and BrightKite allow you to add photos, videos, and in some cases locations, to help extend your Twitter experience.
Keep an eye on Juicecaster, which is now in beta. They are based heavily in SMS text, which generally means an extra expense unless you have unlimited out-of-network texting. If they make good to bridge Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Blogger, Photobucket, and others to one mobile platform, they will have solved a huge need. Hopefully, the goal doesn’t get lost in execution.
I’m a weather geek. I did several years of weather on the radio, and I look at the weather models myself. That said, there is no weather app good enough for me – yet.
Quick forecasts pushed to your phone makes Accuweather a useful and friendly application. The icon on your screen changes to reflect the current forecast with the predicted high and low temperatures without so much as a click. You can drill into the five-day forecast, and then into the hourly forecast and even animated radar. If they can add hotkeys so you can jump to the details you want quickly – and update the forecasts more frequently – this could be THE weather app for most people.
I supplement that app with mobile web pages from the Weather Underground. Especially useful are forecasts that are updated frequently and with more detail. The option of viewing the scientific discussion of why the National Weather Service is predicting a specific condition makes this a great learning tool as well.
Others Worth Noting
Google mobile applications are a great add to your Blackberry. From search, gChat, gMail, Google Reader, to Google Maps they have a great platform. It is a must have. (Note: Verizon Wireless prevents your GPS from working with Google Maps).
Yahoo! has a platform that is cool, and is based on the option of speaking what you are looking for. If you are looking for “deli midtown Manhattan” it gives you directions, maps, and, like Google, will reformat the restaurant’s web site in your browser. If you are looking for something with numbers, you’re better off typing it out.
Personally, I find two search tools better than one – and these two are worth it.
The best web browser for the Blackberry may be Opera Mini, but it is unsupported on my phone on the Verizon network.
Currently in private beta, the browser Bolt offers a lot of hope, including some animations. They are still working on some key functionality, but I look forward to watching what Bolt can do when it is released.
What are your favorite applications for your Blackberry? (Please also list which carrier and model you are using.)