Before switching to BlackBerry, I had been a big supporter of the Windows Mobile platform. I had a touchscreen phone with hardware keyboard and was pleased with the wide variety of applications available for Windows Mobile. Games, utilities, dictionaries, basically an application for anything you wanted. Between the wide variety of applications available and the touchsreen, I was not able to see myself using any other platform.
A couple of years later, once I started experiencing some hardware (and battery) issues, it became evident that stability was more important to me than I had initially surmised. I picked up the BlackBerry Curve 8330 and have not looked back since. Even though it took me a week or two to “cope” with the lack of a touchscreen, the vastly superior battery life and application catalog have made me a BlackBerry fan in the truest since of the word. I think I could write an article about the hardware aspects of the phone, but for this installment, we’ll be talking apps. So, without further ado, here is a list of my top five, can’t live without BlackBerry apps.
Shazam – One application from my Windows Mobile days that I was very happy to see make an appearance on BlackBerry was Shazam. It is the quintessential application for music lovers. If you hear a song on the radio, tv, etc, but do not know who sings it, simply fire up Shazam, and tell it to “tag” the song. Shazam records a snippet of the song, sends it to their servers via the internet where it is identified using the acoustic fingerprint technology and then sends the name of the song, artist and album, along with a link to purchase, back to your phone. For BlackBerry, the demo version will allow you five free tags per month. For a paltry $10 fee, you can unlock unlimited tags and never have to wonder who sang that song again. I can only recall two instances where Shazam did not correctly identify a song and one of those was a live performance of a song. In my very unscientific opinion, I’d give Shazam approximately a 95% accuracy score.
Pandora – If Shazam lets you identify music you are unfamiliar with when, the Pandora could be considered the opposite: it exposes you to music and musicians that you may not be familiar with, but would probably appreciate. After opening the application, you simply enter a song or artist that you do like, then using the Music Genome Project’s library of “genes,” Pandora finds other songs or artists that share similar characteristics. I’ve found several artists that I know enjoy, using Pandora. The desktop version has a few more features, but the mobile version is very nice for when you are waiting somewhere or just want some tunes. This is definitely an app that will use a lot of data and battery power, so make sure you have plenty of both on hand, before you start rocking out.
TwitterBerry – If you’re a Twitter user, then this is a must have. TwitterBerry allows you to post updates, view your friends’ timelines and direct message users. As with Pandora, the desktop version has more features, but for status updates on the go, TwitterBerry is very handy.
Facebook – For those social butterflies out there, you’ve probably already created a Facebook account. What better way to keep up with your friends and family than with Facebook for BlackBerry. The Facebook app makes it easy to update your status and view your friends’ status updates, but it also has a few other tricks up its sleeve. For example, you can use your BlackBerry’s camera to take a picture, then post it to Facebook and even tag people in the photograph, all from within the Facebook app: no need to switch back and forth between applications. Another great feature is the ability to send and receive direct messages as well as send and reply to friend requests. This app has been updated several times since I started using BlackBerry, so if there is a feature that you are looking for that I did not mention, don’t worry…it’ll probably be incorporated into a future release!
Chronograph – Lastly, we have Chronograph. While certainly not as flashy as the other applications I’ve listed, this one is every bit as useful to me. Amazingly, there is no stopwatch application included with BlackBerry OS (at least not on version 4.5 for the Curve 8330). Chronograph fills this gap for a great price: free! The application lets you toggle between a countdown mode or a true stopwatch mode. There are a couple of reasons why I was searching for this app. For one, working in the IT field, I found myself needing to time events in order to test fixes for end users. Showing someone the difference between their computer taking “forever” (their words) and three minutes (actual time) to boot up is priceless. Secondly, the countdown timer is great for family game night. Whenever we have a game that needs a time limit, but the included timer is nowhere to be found, I simply fire up Chronograph and we can get back to the matter at hand: game night! Chronograph allows you to set time limits, alert types and even the tones/songs that are played when the limit is reached. My only complaint with the app is that in stopwatch mode, it only lists hours, minutes and seconds. As a runner, a millisecond field would be appreciated, but I do understand that most people needing this functionality would probably already have an actual stopwatch.
These are only a small sampling of apps that you can download for BlackBerry. Four of the apps I have listed (Chronograph being the only exception), are available for download on BlackBerry App World, a convenient, “one stop shop,” for BlackBerry apps. There is even a downloadable BlackBerry App World application, so you can preview and purchase apps, directly from your handheld. So, once you’ve mastered all of the built in applications for BlackBerry, charge up your battery, verify that your data plan is set to unlimited, and start downloading those apps. You’re bound to find something fun and useful in no time.