One of the best things about Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry smartphones is their ability to download and install external applications.
Every download adds a new level of value and customisation to the devices, and BlackBerry users who don't take advantage of this functionality simply aren't getting the most out of their smartphones.
But like most things in life, the best BlackBerry downloads don't come free – the exception being the following six applications. They include a free mobile RSS reader that delivers whatever feeds you select in real time; an uber search application that scans everything from websites to online telephone directories to local business listings; an invaluable travel tool that provides so much information it gives new meaning to the phrase "don't leave home without it"; a mapping application that provides satellite images of any location in the world, along with driving directions, traffic updates and local search for many regions; and two mobile applications that keep you connected to your favourite social networking sites anywhere you can fire up your BlackBerry.
Viigo: The true mobile RSS reader
Today, just about every website worth visiting has an RSS feed or feeds that serve up fresh content to readers so users don't even need to type in a web addresses to find the content they seek. There is a plethora of choices for desktop and laptop users, but there aren't very many mobile readers that deliver the same quality, especially free readers. That's what makes Viigo special. Viigo provides instant access to any RSS feed available on the web via an easy to read and aesthetically-pleasing interface. And it supports the popular Google Reader service so users can import existing collections of RSS feeds from computers to mobile devices.
The application works with any BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device, and it preserves their user interfaces so there are no new navigation techniques or tricks to learn or get accustomed to. Viigo's simple interface lets users add any feed or "channel" they wish by simply pasting in the feed's web address, and the application offers some 2,500 pre-selected channels. Viigo pushes feed updates to users' handhelds and stores them on the devices so content can be accessed without cellular connectivity.
Viigo Standard Edition (SE) is free for download from the company's site, and there are two versions you need to buy: Viigo Publisher is meant to help content producers or publishers mobilise and easily present their content, and Viigo Corporate Edition (CE) is designed to assist enterprises in provide necessary information to employees via mobile device.
NEXT PAGE:Customised mobile search and an application to make delayed and cancelled flights just slightly less painful.
BlackBerry downloads add a new level of value and customisation to the device but on the whole they don't come free - except for these six that we have rounded up.
Beyond411 Local Search: customised mobile search
It's certainly simple enough to search the internet via sites like Yahoo using web-enabled mobile phones, but what sets Beyond411 Local Search (formerly Berry411) apart, is its ability to search beyond web pages indexed by Yahoo to include search for local business listings, online telephone directories, maps, and more.
Users preset locations such as your home or work, and then type what they're looking for and the application provides a listing of the closest options. It can even calculate driving directions based on preset locations or use GPS to determine current locations. Sadly Beyond411 says the GPS service only works in the U.S. and is not available on Verizon BlackBerrys.
To reduce the number of keystrokes needed, Beyond411 "guesses" what a user wants. For example, if you type "Best B" it will offers up a set of options with "Best Buy" atop the list. The application supports BlackBerry address book integration and can add search results to users' address books or e-mail them in the form of v-cards. Beyond411 can also help identify the best prices on item at local retailers using the Yokel shopping service. And a set of external plug-ins, for flight status tracing, stock information and eBay bidding are also available on the Beyond411 site.
Other options: A number of other mobile applications include bits and pieces of the above functionality, like RIM's BlackBerry Maps, but Beyond411 packs it all into one easy to use package.
WorldMate Live: make those flight cancellations/delays less painful
WorldMate Live is a mobile service meant to simplify the lives of frequent travellers by automatically delivering content and services to mobile devices. Free features available include the My Itineraries function, which stores information on flights, hotels, meetings, public transportation and car rentals on BlackBerrys. The application also lets users export travel information from booking confirmation e-mails, corporate calendars and more, directly into WorldMate Live, and it automatically assembles their itineraries.
The application's "Clocks" feature provides the current time and weather for one set location, as well as the time differences in four additional cities of the user's choice. The Weather function offers a five day forecast for any major city, and the currency converter quickly translates U.S. dollars into Euros or Japanese yen and back again.
Finally, a full colour, searchable map of the world provides locations of cities as well as the date and time of day in each selected location.
That sums up the free version. The best WorldMate Live features are available only to folks with fee-based Gold Memberships, such as real-time flight alerts, flight notifications and meeting notifications and alternatives to cancelled or delayed flights.
NEXT PAGE: BlackBerry applications that offer Google Maps and access to Facebook and Twitter
Give your BlackBerry a new level of value and customisation with these six free downloads.
Google Maps: mobile mapping with satellite imagery
Google Maps for BlackBerry is a mobile mapping application that provides location-based information and services to mobile handsets with or without the use of GPS. The "My Location" function employs nearby mobile receivers to determine rough locations of mobile phone users so no information needs to be entered. The application also provides satellite imagery from the Google Earth service and can deliver driving or step-by-step walking directions with real-time traffic alerts although this is currently restricted to 30 major U.S. cities and isn’t available in the UK yet.
The Google Maps search function also offers integrated search results. That means locations of businesses or organisations, along with contact information and more, appear in one place on a map. And a "Details" tab can be clicked to gather additional information on businesses where available. For instance, the Details tab could display hours of operations for a restaurant or hotel amenities. Users can also easily scroll in or zoom out on the maps by simply clicking the BlackBerry "I" and "O" keys.
Facebook for BlackBerry: never miss a beat
If you are hooked on Facebook, this application is for you. The Facebook social networking tool began as an application used by college students to share photos and other content and to keep in touch with friends, but it has quickly become a valuable tool (some would say addiction) for many business users. The Facebook for BlackBerry applications lets you take your favourite social networking site with you wherever you may roam.
Though not as robust as the real Facebook site - you can't access groups, for example -the mobile application displays your home screen notifications, like status updates, and you can "poke" or message friends and write on their "Walls." Lists of friends and their status updates are also available with a single click from the mobile home screen, and photo uploading and sharing is as simple as snapping an image with your smartphone's camera and uploading it to the site from the application's home screen.
Hitting the BlackBerry menu key on your device brings you from the Facebook home screen to a list of options that include all of the above functionality, as well as the ability to surf to the Facebook Mobile site, which includes much of the functionality available on the full Facebook website.
TwitterBerry: they'll never have to ask what you're doing
What are you doing? That's the question that fuels the Twitter social networking service. Like Facebook, Twitter is making a name for itself among business users and others as a valuable tool to help keep track of what colleagues and others are doing at any given moment. Users constantly submit updates in the form of 140-character instant message-like posts on their current activities so friends, family, colleagues and others can keep tabs on them and vice versa.
This can come in handy for most folks who don't have constant access to their computers - especially always-on BlackBerry users. That's where TwitterBerry's true value shines through. With a single click from the BlackBerry home screen, users can input Twitter updates. Replies to your status updates, as well as timelines of your last posts and the last public posts are available via the TwitterBerry menu, which is accessed via the BlackBerry menu key.
TwitterBerry works on most RIM devices from the 7000 and 8000 series that run on the BlackBerry operating system version 4.0.2 or higher.
For more mobile phone news, reviews and tutorials, see Mobile Advisor, in association with BlackBerry