Ten Essential... BlackBerry Apps
For business and pleasure
Product Round-up Research in Motion’s BlackBerry smartphones are a staple communications tool in the business world, but also have a growing consumer base too. With mobile apps enhancing the capabilities of these phones in both sectors, some pickings from the company’s App World seemed in order, to see what extra juice you can squeeze out of your BlackBerry.
One of the most popular apps for the BlackBerry, this Ram optimiser certainly does make a difference. After running this swiftly executed routine, there was a significant improvement in speed when starting applications. They would just open and close more smoothly compared to the pauses and occasional freezes I would experience. MemoryBooster doesn’t tinker with any SD card or internal storage areas, but focuses on the memory management of the BlackBerry’s Java Virtual Machine – targeting ‘lost’ memory that can be made available to applications so they run more effectively. MemoryBooster even performs background tasks, so you don’t need to routinely apply it. If your BlackBerry has lost some of its spriteliness, then this app is well worth a blast.
If you’re looking for an app to sort your travel needs, then WorldMate Live should be near the top of your list. From currency converter to flight adviser, to far flung weather forecaster, it is a perfect companion for travel of all kinds. With an array of options, WorldMate Live will even direct you to the nearest hotel, if you find yourself with a lost booking. If you’re heading to another city on business then it can hook you into the LinkedIn network with relevant contacts taken care of even before you arrive. Buy into the subscription and you’ll receive flight alerts with suggested alternatives, global flight schedules for virtually any route and comprehensive travel directory for airlines, hotel chains and car rental services. Don’t leave home without it.
If you’re tired of hunting around through various folders and menus to get to your most used apps and settings, then QuickLaunch is the answer. You simply configure a convenience key to activate QuickLaunch which then pops up with a list of shortcuts for e-mail, SMS, radio, Bluetooth settings and the like. Setting up your shortcuts is simply a matter of adding the app or function to the QuickLaunch list. You can even assign a letter to each shortcut to speed things up still further. Unlike some apps, QuickLaunch doesn’t linger in the background. Once you’ve selected your choice from the list, QuickLaunch quits and the shortcut item launches. The sheer convenience, along with minimum overhead, makes this an invaluable app to have to speed up navigation on the BlackBerry.
Pageonce Personal Assistant Premium
This application is a great personal assistant that besides taking care of your itineraries, also offer bills integration and access to your various bank accounts, credit cards and investments. It's also a travel planner and keeps track of frequent flyer miles by linking all the airlines you’ve travelled with. When setting up, the chances are you’ll find your bank even if its international one. Testing out a credit card, the usual on-line security details were entered. After a few moments of on-line account interrogation, details of transactions appeared on the screen. All upcoming bills can be integrated into the calendar and it will even send an e-mail if transactions look fishy or if you’ve exceeded your credit limit. Naturally, the question of security comes to mind, so if you do happen to lose your BlackBerry, just go to your pageonce.com profile page and block access. If you need to keep on top of your personal finances, this app is simply a must.
Many cellcos charge ridiculous tariffs to enable a mobile to function as a modem for a laptop. Yet Tether taps into the Blackberry Smartphone’s data plan, giving you access to Internet on your laptop anywhere your Blackberry works. Before you start, you’ll need to instal an app on your laptop. For PCs you can hook up the BlackBerry via USB or Bluetooth, but on the Mac incompatibilities with BlackBerry Desktop Manager make it simpler to use Bluetooth only, which I tried out. The site suggests much higher speeds than I managed, but throughput can depend on so many things – signal strength and carrier bandwidth throttling being just two possibilities. Tether does work, but being far from fast during tests and so expensive, its rating here suffers. So check out the trial download first and see if it flies for you or flounders.
ProOnGo Expense and Receipt Reader
If you need to keep track of expenses then this is the app for you, and it’s free. It has numerous options, but it is, nonetheless, very intuitive, providing all you need to record receipts, mileage/travel and time expenses. My favourite feature is that you can take a picture of a receipt with the phone’s camera and it automatically generates an expense report based on the data. It sounds fantastic, but it depends how big and legible the receipts are, as well as the lighting and distance when taking the snapshot. With handwritten receipts or large ones, it might not extract all the details, so you need to look closely and not assume it has transferred all the data. When you’re ready you can export the create expense sheet as an Excel, XML or CSV file and works with QuickBooks too. Incidentally, in ProOnGo offers a business card reader  too, that converts to VCFs, which is another handy app worth trying.
This nifty translator can help you make sense of up to 50 languages, converting texts in a matter of seconds. I tested it in French, Spanish, Catalan and Bulgarian and the results are certainly useable, with translations of the more popularly spoken European languages being pretty close to the gist of what I was trying to convey. It translates from e-mails, SMS messages, web pages or by simply typing. It will even speak back your translation, however, this feature takes a while and only supports a handful of European languages. Yet for tongue-tied traveller, having the Navita translator to hand means you won’t feel quite so lost whether abroad, at a business briefing or just checking an exotic restaurant menu. If you tire of the annoying ads at the bottom of the screen you can pay to get rid of them for a year for about a fiver.
With BlackBerry’s so prevalent in business, this app is one stop shop for all your finance related dealings at work or for your own private portfolio. It includes realtime content delivered direct from CNN Money’s news feed. Breaking news, along with pricing, trading, stock quotes and tracking can all be shown. It’s free and easy to personalise using ‘My Stocks’, which will track progress and even send out alerts regarding market updates. If you want to share articles appearing on CNN Money, they can easily forwarded thanks to this apps e-mail and Uber Twitter integration.
It’s certainly quirky but you can actually turn your BlackBerry into a mouse and keyboard using MobiMouse and hook it up to a PC. With support for USB, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, mouse control is achieved using the BlackBerry trackball (or the touchpad on your BlackBerry Storm) to move the mouse pointer on Windows PCs. To get started, the host machine needs the MobiMouse configuration app installed, where you determine the communication type. Forget to instal this and you’re going nowhere fast. Testing on my Curve 8900 took a while to get used to, as the mouse pointer needs to be assigned certain behaviours, but it’s easy to see how convenient having a wireless, handheld mouse and keyboard would be for presentations. Shortcuts can be assigned too and you can even adjust the PCs audio output using the corresponding volume control keys on your BlackBerry. There’s trial version available, so you can see if novel navigator is for you.
Vayoo Social Box Premium
If you’re after an all-in-one app for FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr, then Vaayoo is well worth a look. You’ll need to register a Vaayoo account but following that, it’s really straightforward to receive status updates on popular social networking sites. Once logged in it’s easy to navigate and features several neat applications so all your media needs can be handled and organised seamlessly. You can upload images and video to all the usual sites, as well as viewing and updating your Facebook wall, Twitter feeds, Flickr sets, and Picasa albums. If community sharing is your thing then My Peeps is an aspect of Vaayoo that enables you to join or create a community with Private or invite-only options too.