More often than not, you get what you pay for when it comes to mobile apps--though there are exceptions.
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A couple of months ago, we gave you our first batch of a half-dozen free BlackBerry apps that can help you realize the full potential of your RIM device. The article included a great mobile RSS reader, a handy uber search application, an invaluable smartphone-based travel companion and a free mobile mapping app, among others.
This time around, we've got six additional free downloads that we're sure you'll love even more. Check out two voice-activated mobile search apps--one with GPS-integration and one without; an awesome alternative to the BlackBerry Web browser; a gaggle of Google mobile apps and an updater to ensure you've always got the latest versions; as well as a Twitter for BlackBerry application that we've quickly come to appreciate.
BlackBerry Voice Search: If You Speak It, Results Will Come
Typing search queries into your mobile device is so 2007. Today, applications like Yahoo oneSearch Voice and Tellme 2.0 "listen" to spoken words and phrases and deliver up results on your mobile's screen. Both these applications offer similar functionality, though Tellme 2.0 can integrate GPS location information where available, and both apps can be downloaded free of charge.
Yahoo oneSearch Voice, functions just like traditional text-query-based search engines, minus the typing. You can search for anything you normally would, including company names, movie showtimes, restaurant locales, etc. And though the application does not integrate GPS location information, you can get local search results from Yahoo.com by simply stating your location after your query. For instance, if you're looking for steak houses in New York, you need only state "Steak Houses, New York, New York" and you'll be well on your way to a tasty T-bone.
oneSearch is also "intelligent," so the more you use it, the better it gets at recognizing your voice. (Unfortunately, the app's currently available only on BlackBerry Pearl, Curve and 8800 series smartphones.)
Tellme 2.0 with voice is very similar to oneSearch, but what sets it apart is the ability to integrate GPS data from BlackBerry devices into search results. So, for example, you'd need only state "Steak House" when seeking a center cut in Manhattan or Malibu, and you'll get a list of your best local options. Tellme can also use your GPS to provide driving directions and traffic locations, so you'll never be lost as long as your BlackBerry's at your side.
Tellme queries Microsoft's Live search engine for results--the company is a Redmond subsidiary--and incorporates information from external services like Fandango for movie times. (Currently the application functions with only BlackBerry Pearl 8100, Curve 8310, 8800, 8820 and 8830 devices.)
To use both apps, you simply hold down the green BlackBerry Send key and speak into your device's external speaker and wait a few seconds for your results.
Opera Mini: A Better Way to Browse
Along with our last BlackBerry apps list, we posted a set of seven free applications for Windows Mobile Smartphone and Pocket PC devices. In that list, we included the Opera Mini browser. Since Opera Mini works on BlackBerry devices as well as Windows Mobile handhelds--and because it's one of the BlackBerry apps we use most frequently--we also decided to introduce those of you who aren't familiar with Opera yet.
Opera Mini from Opera Software, a free browser, runs on the vast majority of BlackBerry devices--from the 5810 to the 8830.
You need the BlackBerry Browser that comes standard on your RIM device for certain Web-based services and to download some applications. But if it were up to us, we'd rarely stray from Opera Mini. That's because of the software's innovative and unique feature set.
Opera Mini gives you a tiny cursor that you can move around to any spot or link on a page, instead of having to scroll up and down to get to the links you want. Alternatively, you can also use the numeric keypad to move around a page; for example, the 2 key scrolls up and the 8 key scrolls down. (RIM copied a few of these features in the latest version of the BlackBerry browser, and you know what they say about imitation and flattery...)
Opera Mini also uses a "Small Screen Rendering" function to fit any page to your BlackBerry display, whether or not it's WAP-optimized for mobile devices, so you don't have to scroll back and forth to see the full content. And because Opera Mini compresses the webpage data before sending it, the content is delivered more rapidly--and costs less, for those of you without unlimited data plans--because that content is squeezed into smaller packets.
The software even helps you decide where to begin reading the content on a specific page: The "Suggested Starting Points" feature first shows you a page overview--a zoomed out view that shows the entire webpage layout--and then positions the browser over the spot that it deems most relevant. Click your browser's Enter key once to zoom into the recommended spot.
Final bonus: You can easily sync the bookmarks from your PC's browser to your phone using the company's Opera Link service.
(Note: A beta version of Opera Mini 4.1 with many new features is also available.)
Google Mobile Updater for BlackBerry: Everything and Anything Google
The free Google Mobile Updater application, currently available only to BlackBerry users for download, brings a handful of the search giant's mobile service to your RIM device. As suggested by its name, the Google Mobile Updater also keeps you aware of all the newest applications from the search giant so that your software is always up to date.
To get the app over the air, just point your BlackBerry browser to "mobile.google.com" and select the "Get all Google products in a single download" link. You can also get the application via PC by surfing to the mobile site, clicking the All Products tab and entering your phone number. An SMS text with download instructions will then be sent to your device.
Once you've downloaded the Mobile Updater, you have the option to install all or some of Google's available mobile services. These include Gmail; Google Sync, which lets you sync your Google Calendar with your BlackBerry; Google Reader, a mobile RSS reader; Google Docs, a Web-based documents application; the Picasa photo app; the Google Maps mapping application; and both Google Web and News Search engines. Icons for each service that you select will download to your BlackBerry home screen for easy access. Click the Update icon to check for new versions of your software at any time.
TinyTwitter: Tweet, Wherever You May Be
TinyTwitter lets you send and receive Twitter.com updates and messages, as well as check on what your connections are doing. It works on BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and other smartphones--in fact; it will function on any Java-enabled device, according to the TinyTwitter website.
In our last free BlackBerry downloads article, we touted TwitterBerry as our mobile Twitter application of choice, but now we're not so sure. We recently came across TinyTwitter, and it has the vast majority of features TwitterBerry offers and more. (I did notice, however, that TwitterBerry works over my UMA Wi-Fi connection, but TinyTwitter does not.)
You can access your Friend Timeline, specific users' timelines, hide tweets from certain friends, and set the app to automatically update in intervals of 4 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, every hour, or only manually. Your most recent "tweet" can be set to scroll across the bottom of your screen. And you can even change the font size of your on-screen text and direct message people--another feature that TwitterBerry lacks.
Replying to "tweets" using TinyTwitter is as easy as selecting a message, hitting your BlackBerry menu key and choosing "Reply." TwitterBerry makes you type the name of your respondent every time you want to comment on a friend's entry, which can be tedious.
The one essential feature that TinyTwitter lacks, in our opinion, is a command to view the Public Timeline.
BlackBerry Weather Push: Instant Local Weather Without the Clutter
Last but not least, check out the BlackBerry Weather Push app.
This download is one of the most basic apps we use--but that's why we love it. If you haven't downloaded the BlackBerry Weather Push app already, point your browser to the mobile BlackBerry.com site and grab it right now.
There are plenty of more robust BlackBerry programs that provide weather information along with additional functionality, but the Weather Push app's beauty is in its simplicity.
The application throws an icon onto your home screen that changes every day or so depending on the weather--it's a big shiny sun on beautiful day, a brimming rain cloud on others, etc.--and you get a brief five-day forecast when you click on it. The software also provides high and low predicted temperature for the next five days, in both Fahrenheit and Celsius, as well as the percent chance of precipitation.
It updates itself via a browser channel a couple times a day, and the date and time of last update show on screen so you know when it was last refreshed. Ideally, the service would update a bit more frequently, but we can't complain as we don't really need real-time weather data.
As a source of information, you can choose AccuWeather, The Weather Network or both, and you can change the forecast locale whenever you please, by clicking on the Location tab in the bottom right hand corner of the forecast screen.
Know of any other free BlackBerry apps we overlooked here or in our last BlackBerry downloads post? Drop us a comment and share.