When the newest BlackBerry Torch first came out, the app selections were few: many of the existing apps worked only with older versions, and it wasn’t popular enough for developers to comply. But now that the Torch has been out for a while, the range of apps has grown and owners can now access the same functionalities as those with older models. If you’re looking to load up your new phone, here are some that are worth a download.
Capture It: In a nutshell, this app lets you take screenshots from your phone and save it into your photo library. It doesn’t do much else, but it’s straightforward–you press a button and you’ve got your screen cap. It’s great for saving info from websites without having to bookmark or save it for offline reading, which takes up time and memory.
Flight Mode: The BlackBerry OS automatically cuts down email messages for faster delivery, which can be a hassle if you’re trying to read emails on the go. Flight Mode offers a way around it by downloading messages in their entirety just before you power down your phone for takeoff. It also does the rest of the job, including turning off network connections and shutting down your phone.
Tag Reader: The Torch doesn’t come with a barcode translator, which you’ll need to read information from codes on posters, flyers, and magazines. Tag Reader, developed by Microsoft, does just that, allowing you to translate the code into a Web link that contains the information you need. All you do is take a picture of the barcode using the app, and the data loads right away.
Bit.lify: One issue with BlackBerry is that it doesn’t work too well with most URL-shortening services. Bit.lify takes care of that by providing an easy interface on the Torch to Bit.ly, one of the more popular truncators. Use the BlackBerry browser to open the website, and pick Bit.lify from the main menu. You can then choose to share the URL through SMS or email, or copy it onto your clipboard for publishing.
Google Voice: If you have a Google Voice number, this app can save you a good deal of time. Basically a mobile dialer, it allows you to send and receive calls and messages through your Google Voice account, as well as view your call history, read voicemail transcripts, and integrate contacts from your phone’s built-in address book.
The BlackBerry Curve line isn’t exactly known for its range of apps, but there’s more than a few options for Curve owners. RIM has provided most of the basics, from messaging to business and entertainment. There are also a number of other apps, some made independently by RIM developers and others by third parties, that fill in the gaps in functionality. These apps for BlackBerry Curve can help you get the most out of your phone.
Messenger: The BlackBerry Messenger is a simple, direct way to communicate with friends. SMS messages are shown in chat form, much like in the iOS and other operating systems. You can also make your own contact lists, save and review your message history, and attach photos and videos to your messages (provided your network supports MMS).
UberTwitter: Twitter users can view and update their accounts through this GPS-compatible app. You can post status updates, view your contacts’ posts, and play around with your account settings on the go. The GPS feature allows you to add a location tag to every post. For longer posts, you can use the tweet shrinking option to fit messages into the 140-character limit and include photos and videos.
Pandora: Developed by the Internet radio company of the same name, Pandora lets you personalize your music by taking note of your preferences. You start by choosing a particular artist or track, and the app generates a playlist based on similar items. As you go along, you can give positive or negative reviews to the suggestions, which the program “remembers” in subsequent playlists.
BlackBerry Traffic: For users who are always on the go, this RIM app is great for finding the easiest route from point A to point B. It uses GPS data to point you to the closest highways, estimate arrival times, notify you of road closures, and provide up-to-date traffic information. This only works with certain models (the 8530, 8900 and 9300) and requires you to install BlackBerry Maps as well.
Who Is It: This app takes the concept of caller ID and gives it a fun new twist. You can set the phone to light up in a specific color that you associate with a certain contact; you can do this with up to ten people on your list. It’s a simple idea, but it’s surprisingly useful for receiving calls from a distance, or from answering your phone in the evenings.
As one of the less-popular tablets on the market, the BlackBerry Playbook has fewer options when it comes to apps–but that doesn’t mean users are stuck with the usuals. BlackBerry App World, the company’s version of the app store, offers a small but high-quality selection of apps for a wide range of purposes. This includes office tools, productivity tools, news, and of course, more than a few games. Here are some of the most popular.
Poynt: This is the BlackBerry’s answer to Google Maps, pointing you to the nearest points of interest in your area. You can search for restaurants, bookshops, theaters, gas stations, and pretty much any business. You can even filter results by subcategories (say, Indian food) and get results within seconds. The interface is easy on the eyes, and more importantly easy to use: it’s intuitive, and you can access every function in just a couple of swipes.
LaterDude: RIM has yet to make its own organizer app, but for the moment, there’s this handy program made by one of the company’s developers. LaterDude is pretty straightforward: it lets you write on virtual post-its and tack them onto the screen for easy access. The app can run in the background and can be opened by scrolling in between apps on your list.
Netflix Queue Manager: Streaming movies are part of what makes tablets fun, and this Netflix tool makes it a breeze. The app allows you to add or delete films from your to-watch list, search movies, view your history, and browse around for new titles. All this can be done in the app’s simple, user-friendly screen. You’ll need the separate Netflix app to actually stream movies, though.
FancyTran: Despite its name, FancyTran is a pretty simple, no-nonsense translation tool. It translates text that you type or paste into the box into a language you select from the list. It supports most common languages, including English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Chinese and Japanese. There’s also an auto-detect feature that figures out the original language for you.
FourPlay: This app, developed by a team of RIM developers, gives you all the main features of the location-based app Foursquare. You can “check in” at locations, read up on specific destinations, and keep tabs on where your contacts are. The interface was recently redesigned for a simpler, more intuitive look, so even users unfamiliar with Foursquare can get the hang of it.
Smartphones aren’t much fun without at least a few apps, which is why it’s a good thing most of them are free. Although paid versions offer a lot–most notably ad-free use–their free counterparts are just as functional and more than just quick “trial” versions. The iPhone app market has the biggest selection of free apps, from simple games to elaborate planners, office tools, and news feeds. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the choices. To help you get started here are five free iPhone apps that are definitely worth a try.
Skype: If your main reason for owning a smartphone is staying in touch, you’ll want more than just the call and SMS function. Skype allows you to call other landline phones, computers, and other smartphones using your Internet connection. Skype to Skype calls are free, and Skype to phone costs a fraction of what it does on a regular line. It’s a great investment if you make frequent overseas calls or are always on the go.
WordPress: Whether you run a blog or are a regular commenter–or even if you just like to lurk–the WordPress app is a great tool for managing content. You can read your favorite blogs on the go, in a format that’s made for smartphone screens. You can also comment, make edits, and create entire posts without having to whip out the laptop.
Instagram: If you’ve been on Facebook at all recently, you’ve probably seen what people can do with Instagram: take pictures, add creative filters and frames, and upload them immediately on social networks. While “pro” photographers scoff at the idea, there’s no denying the usefulness of on-the-go photo publishing. It makes it easy to share experiences on the road, and adds interest to what might otherwise be a bland photo.
Flashlight: This app is as simple as it gets. It uses the iPhone’s LED flash to turn the phone into a flashlight, which is handy for looking in dark corners and lighting up dark rooms. The new version includes different colors, timers, and a fireworks effect.
AppMiner: Basically, this is an app for finding apps. It lets you keep tabs on apps you want but are waiting to get until they are on sale or free, or simply browse through hundreds of apps if you’re looking for something new. One issue is that the results aren’t filtered, so there’s always a chance you’ll come across a faulty app. If you know what you’re looking for, however, it’s worth a try if only for the range of choices you get.
Developers may make a good part of their money from sales, but free apps are what really keep the Android app economy growing. Besides ad revenue, they provide valuable traffic that not only leads to sales, but also creates publicity and helps them stand out in an increasingly competitive market. Most new Android users start scouring the market for free apps as soon as the tablet gets out of the box.
What makes free apps so appealing is that there’s no commitment involved: you install the program (it takes a few seconds), fumble around with it, and uninstall it if you’re not happy. Unlike a lot of computer programs, it doesn’t leave installation files and other junk on your hard drive when you thought you’d gotten rid of it.
For more savvy users, however, Android app reviews are a great time-saver. By reading what others have to say about a potential app, you can figure out whether or not it’s worth a try. It saves you the trouble of downloading, installing, and uninstalling, which, although fast, can be a hassle when we’re talking dozens upon dozens of apps. On app stores, reviews are shown right next to or below the product, so there’s no need to browse around–you can view screenshots alongside user feedback.
An easy way to evaluate an app is to look at its rating, which is the average of all user ratings given within a time period. One problem with this is that one good review can pull up a long list of bad ones, and vice versa. That’s why it’s usually best to read the reviews themselves rather than just go by the ratings. Often, a user will mark down an app because of a feature that doesn’t really matter to other users.
Reading reviews is especially important when you’ve decided to invest in a paid version. You’ll already have tried the program out yourself, but it still helps to know that the extra features are really worth the money. The best way to do this is to ask others who have done the same and see if they’d recommend it. Remember, the perks of a paid app are often designed for heavy users, so take into account how much you’ll be getting out of it.
Finally, when you’ve gotten the hang of your new app, it’s always a good idea to leave an Android app review. It can be as simple as giving it a one- to five-star rating, or a detailed account of what you like and don’t like about the program. It’s what makes the free app market so popular, and a great way to contribute to the app community!