Since it launched in April 2009 RIM’s BlackBerry App World has seen a steady increase in followers and the number of applications on offer. It’s not quite as populated as the Apple App Store or Android Market, but 60,000 apps and 2 million apps downloads per day (and growing) is not to be sneered at.
As a user BlackBerry App World seems to have more emphasis on paid than free apps – in fact with an average price of $0.99, developers make more money (around 20-40%) by developing for BlackBerry App World as opposed to other operating systems. There’s also a big emphasis on business rather than gaming, although for the PlayBook, games are the most downloaded genre.
If you’ve got your first BlackBerry smartphone and aren’t sure what apps to download, or are simply looking for a few suggestions. Here’s our pick of the top free apps for BlackBerry OS 7.
With phone hacking featuring more and more in the news, smartphone security is of growing concern for increasing numbers of people.
The first application BlackBerry users should download is BlackBerry Protect, which is similar to Apple’s Find My iPhone. BlackBerry Protect helps you locate your prized BlackBery should you be unfortunate enough to lose it or it gets stolen. Simply log in at www.blackberry.com/protect with your BlackBerry ID and it will display the location on the map.
BlackBerry Protect also backs-up your contacts, calendars, text messages, bookmarks and memos, so if your phone gets lost you can still access personal data which can be transferred onto a new phone. You can choose to back up daily, weekly or monthly and even over WiFi if you want to save data .
BlackBerry Protect isn’t available on business data plans, only consumer.
TuneIn Radio is one of our favourite Internet radio apps, so it’s great to find it free for BlackBerry users, bringing thousands of music stations within a few clicks.
Search for your favourite stations or just browse new ones by genre; with 50,000 stations and 1.2 million streams there is plenty of choice.
Stream podcasts (sadly you can’t download them though) and use BlackBerry’s location services to discover new local stations. Favourite stations can be saved as presets.
We’d advise using TuneIn Radio over WiFi, otherwise you’ll use around 100MB data an hour over 3G. BlackBerry Storm 2 and BlackBerry Torch users will need to activate compatibility mode.
Whether you are a creature of habit who likes FiveLive or Today, or you just want to discover new music using your BlackBerry download TuneIn Radio now.
BBM is RIM’s new music-streaming service. Every month you can download 50 tracks from a choice of millions, which you can listen to offline and compile into playlists, swapping 25 for new ones each month, all via a user-friendly interface. What’s great about BBM Music is that it is a connected app; so you can share your playlist with BlackBerry-equipped friends, comment of their choice and (best of all) access their 50 tunes. So connect with four friends and your music library jumps from 50 to 250 tracks – the more friends who use it, the more music you’ll have.
BBM Music is free to download, but there is a monthly subscription, download it before the end of February and you’ll get a very generous six months free, then it’s £4.99 a month.
BlackBerry smartphones don’t have the reputation for photographic prowess like a Nokia or Sony Ericsson; in fact those we’ve tested recently have very basic photo features, such as a smattering of scene modes, but often no autofocus like the BlackBerry Bold 9900.
Photo Studio is a free app that lets you tweak the exposure, add frames and filter effects and create collages using your photographs.
Download the app and you get actually get three separate programs: Photo Studio, Camera+ (the launcher) and Frame (for collages). Most of the goodness happens within Photo Studio where you can can adjust the Brightness, Contrast and Hue and apply filters to photographs, such as Sepia (right).
Once you have chosen and applied your effects it’s incredibly simple to share via Facebook, email or Twitter. Photo Studio is also a connected app, so you can share your picture via friends on BBM.
Although waiting for effects to apply can be a little slow and navigation can be a little unwieldy, Photo Studio vastly improves the BlackBerry’s native camera features, so is well worth a download.
Flashlight: 2 for 1 Free
Flashlight turns the flash on your BlackBerry handset into a torch. On initial download you get two programs for two torches, on our BlackBerry Bold 9790 this produced a bright back flashlight and weaker front flashlight. To use the flash simply launch the app and point the phone. This app does exactly what it says on the tin and certainly beats scrabbling around in the dark trying to find a light.
Of course BlackBerry mobile phones include BlackBerry Messenger, but what happens if the person you want to IM is using an Apple iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S2? WhatApp Messenger lets you chat to friends across any network, operating system or mobile phone and because WhatsApp Messenger uses data rather than your allocated minutes, it’s incredibly cheap.
You’ll need to use a WhatApp account, but enter your phone number and it searches your contacts to find other WhatApp Messenger users before pulling them in automatically. It’s not just for messages either – send music and pictures too. WhatsApp Messenger is free for a year.
UberSocial for Twitter
The native BlackBerry Twitter app is very basic, so if you’re a big fan of 140 character comments we’d suggest trying out UberSocial for Twitter instead
Launch the app and you’ll notice a selection of icons across the top, which including: direct messages, mentions, trending topics and near me.
UberSocial for Twitter is far more user-friendly than the Twitter app. Click on a message and you can instantly see the persons followers, who they are following, tweets etc. We do find the icons a little small though. Extras include the ability to cross post with Facebook and to manage multiple accounts. The odd advert pops up, but on features alone we’d advise any Twitter fan to give it a go.
Android and iOS devices make it very easy to take screenshots, which is great if you want to show off a particular website or an Angry Birds score, but unfortunately there’s no shortcut on BlackBerry devices, so you’ll need an app. Many screen capture apps offer free or paid versions, but these can often add watermarks, but Screen Grabber is one of the few free versions we’ve found that allow you to take screenshots without a watermark. Once you’ve installed Screen Grabber hit the menu, scroll up and you’ll see a new ‘Screen Grabber’ option. Click this and it will take a screen capture within seconds, which you can email or BBM. Picture size is limited to 480 x 360 though, but that’s fine for email.
Updated March 1st