Free BlackBerry Storm Downloads: Five (More) Must Have Apps
In the three months since RIM released the BlackBerry Storm in the United States, mobile software developers haven't wasted any time cranking out applications for the first touch-screen BlackBerry. Here are our picks for five of the best free BlackBerry Storm downloads the Web has to offer.
By Al Sacco
Managing Editor, CIO
My favorite kind of BlackBerry application is a free BlackBerry application. The only problem: You often get what you pay for when it comes to BlackBerry software.
Often, but not always. The following five free BlackBerry downloads break the rule; each and every one of these BlackBerry Storm apps will enhance your overall smartphone experience, and not a one requires the use of your wallet or its contents.
Shortly after the Storm’s release, I delivered to you seven of the best free Storm apps that were available at the time. Now, I’m updating that list with my picks for the current crop of best free BlackBerry Storm downloads. My latest selections include free software to help you locate businesses, restaurants, hotels and more, from wherever you may be; an app that locks your BlackBerry Storm’s screen during calls; a YouTube client for watching Storm optimized videos on the go; a Storm-optimized mobile news aggregator; and an on-device music store.
What is new is Beyond411’s Storm support, which was announced this week. Now BlackBerry Storm users have access to the same speedy local search, GPS support and BlackBerry address book integration available to all other BlackBerry owners via Beyond411.
To employ the app, you pre-set locations–like home or work–or use GPS and then type what you’re looking for; then the application provides a listing of the closest options. The software also calculates driving directions based on preset locations or you can employ GPS to determine current locations. (Note: There were some early reports of GPS issues with the Storm version of Beyond411, but the developer behind the app says they’ve all been resolved.)
To reduce the number of keystrokes needed, Beyond411 “guesses” what you want. 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 your 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 search service. You’ll also find a set of external plug-ins, for flight status tracking, stock information and eBay bidding on the Beyond411 site.
TalkLock sits quietly on your BlackBerry Storm until a call comes in, or you place one. As soon as a connection is made between you and a party on the other end of the line, TalkLock jumps into action and disables your BlackBerry Storm’s screen functions until the call is disconnected. Why is this particularly valuable? The design of the Storm lends itself to frequent accidental screen clicks while on calls—due mostly to the large size of the device’s screen and the fact that there aren’t really any places to put your fingers during calls except on the edges of the display.
To use the free TalkLock app, you simply download it: the next time you get a call your screen will lock on its own. If you want to unlock the display during a call to access phone or other information on your handheld, swipe your finger across the iPhone-lock-like dial on the screen and you’re good to go.
You can also supposedly customize the image that appears when your screen is locked. (I wasn’t able to figure out how to switch out screen images in the limited time I had before posting this article.)
One downside to TalkLock: it doesn’t appear to work when you press and hold the physical BlackBerry Menu key, which is located at the bottom of the device. Whenever I hold my Menu key, the BlackBerry application ribbon appears and disables the lock.
(Note: Because TalkLock doesn’t show up as an app in your Downloads, Applications or any other BlackBerry folders, deleting it means a manual navigation through Options > Advanced Options > Applications > TalkLock > Menu >Delete.)
YouTube for Storm: Viral Video Formatted Especially for Your BlackBerry
The BlackBerry Storm was made for watching video and consuming all types of digital media. And though Storm owners have always been able to watch YouTube videos on their devices via a mobile website, it wasn’t until recently that a Storm-specific YouTube client became available. And like the full version of YouTube, the Storm app is free.
Put simply: YouTube for Storm works great; the app makes watching popular video, searching for specific content and accessing your personal account information simple. And its clean interface means you won’t have to waste time figuring out how the app works or navigating through confusing menus.
Video clips appear in landscape mode (horizontal) to take advantage of the device’s large, 480X360 pixel display–in fact, the whole application is locked into landscape mode and both the portrait view and the associated vertical virtual keyboard are unavailable. You can easily scroll through video search results with a flick of your finger across the screen. And you can rate, flag and add any video to your favorites with a single screen click.
But one feature that’s markedly absent from the app is the ability to upload videos from the Storm to your YouTube account.
AP Mobile News Network for Storm: A Perfect Storm of News, Information
It’s no coincidence that BlackBerry addicts also frequently happen to be news junkies. The same qualities that drive us toward 24/7 connectivity also breed the desire for a constant stream of real-time news. That’s why I’ve mentioned the Associated Press’s (AP) Mobile News Network a number of times on CIO.com; it’s without a doubt one of the most full-features mobile news aggregators available for BlackBerry. (You can also get iPhone- and iPod touch-compatible versions.)
But thanks to the BlackBerry Storm’s touch-screen-based user interface (UI), the latest Storm-specific version of the AP Mobile Mobile News Network app proves the best iteration yet.
AP Mobile News Network offers you a variety of news types, including top news, local, U.S., tech, showbiz, sports, world, elections information, from greater than 700 “trusted sources,” according to the AP. And news stories often include images. The completely customizable application lets you pick the content you want and ditch what you don’t. You can also save specific stories and share them with friends via e-mail.
And it’s all easy to navigate by pressing and dragging your finger around the Storm’s screen and clicking when appropriate.
V CAST Music Rhapsody for Verizon Storm: Pump Up the Volume
This one’s available only to users of Verizon Wireless’s BlackBerry Storm 9530–or owners of unlocked Storm devices–so I placed it at the bottom of the list. But if you fall in either of these categories, the free V CAST Music with Rhapsody app deserves a look.
First of all: V CAST Music Rhapsody is no iTunes Store; the app found on iPhone and iPod touch devices blows the V CAST app out of the water from a UI perspective, as well as from an ease of use standpoint. However, there’s no iTunes app for BlackBerry–or anything like it, at least that I know of–so if you’re looking for a way to download music directly to your RIM handheld, V CAST’s your best option. (Like iTunes there’s also a desktop client for V CAST Music, so you can transfer music purchased on your device back and forth between your PC and vice versa.)
The service gives you the option of purchasing songs for $0.99 a piece or paying $14.99 for a month’s worth of unlimited music downloads. And you can shop from more than half a million songs at any given time, in 25 different genres, according to Verizon.
Best of all: With no messy digital rights management (DRM) protection tied to V CAST songs, you can listen to them on any compatible digital media player. And whenever you buy a song directly from your BlackBerry, you can download a higher quality desktop version at a later time at no additional charge.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.