by Al Sacco

BlackBerry Apps: Four Types to Avoid

Jul 22, 2010
MobileSmall and Medium BusinessSmartphones

Not every BlackBerry application is all it's cracked up to be.'s BlackBerry expert Al Sacco highlights four types of BlackBerry apps you'd do well to avoid.

It’s never been easier to find quality BlackBerry applications. That’s due largely to RIM’s own app store, BlackBerry App World–which sees right around 1 million downloads a day, according to the company–as well as third party application marketplaces like Mobihand’s BlackBerry store. Both online destinations are one-stop shops for valuable BlackBerry apps.

image of Top Five Paid Apps in BlackBerry App World
Top Five Paid Apps in BlackBerry App World, Including a Flashlight and Memory Booster App

But the flip side to this explosion in BlackBerry software is that many less-than-valuable apps make their way into App World, Mobihand and elsewhere, crowding the virtual “shelf-space” and making it more challenging to find the true, must-have BlackBerry apps.

I’m talking about applications that simply don’t do what they promise. Apps that cost too much. Or software that’s plain ol’ useless.

I’ve been recommending BlackBerry apps to my readers for years–just check out my BlackBerry Bible page. Now it’s time to call out the apps that don’t make the grade.

What follows is a list of four application types I’ve identified that aren’t worth the space on my BlackBerry. You’ll notice I’m not spotlighting specific applications, but types. Of course, you can make up your own mind; why not try an application if it’s free? You can always delete it any time you want, right? The idea here is to save you time, effort, frustration, and in some cases, dollars.

Keep moving for my quick list of BlackBerry apps you’re better off avoiding.

BlackBerry Application Type: “Flashlight” Apps

Reason to Avoid: BlackBerry “flashlight” apps typically employ your BlackBerry’s camera flash as a tiny flashlight. Some of these applications let you change the color of your “flashlight,” but they mostly do the same thing: Keep your flash lit up like Vegas after dusk. Some of these applications are free, and if you’re looking for advanced features on top of a simple, “white-colored” flashlight, and you’re not low on BlackBerry storage space, they may be worth a look. But whenever I need a flashlight, and all I have on-hand is my BlackBerry, I simply open up my video-camera application and click the space bar. Click the space bar again to disable the flash.

Voila. You’ve got a BlackBerry flashlight, no app required. The only catch is that the video-camera flash disables itself when your screen dims, so you’ll need to repeatedly click a key to ensure your screen is lit while you need a light. Also, you should be aware that keeping your BlackBerry flash lit up for extended periods of time, whether you do it yourself or via an application, will likely drain significant battery-life.

FREE CIO BlackBerry Newsletter

Get better use out of your BlackBerry and keep up-to-date on the latest developments. Sign-up »

BlackBerry Application Type:Memory Management Apps Reason to Avoid: A plethora of applications exist to help you monitor and free up memory on your BlackBerry. Dubbed memory “boosters,” “managers” and “monitors,” most simply offer interfaces for gauging your current BlackBerry memory usage, along with tools that supposedly help to “free” memory. BlackBerry Memory Options Screen Problem is, in my experience, none these apps really do anything that you can’t do on your own. For example, you can get a quick idea of your smartphone’s current memory status by simply opening up your BlackBerry Options menu, which looks like some sort of wrench in default BlackBerry themes. Within that menu, scroll down to and click Memory. You’ll see a listing for Application Memory. And if you’re aware of the total app memory in your devices–either 256MB or 512MB in most new BlackBerry devices–you can easily figure out the percentage of free app memory, no app required…well, maybe the default BlackBerry calculator app. Logging into the “My World” section of BlackBerry App World will give you a quick estimate of your free memory.

You can also use a BlackBerry shortcut to invoke the BlackBerry “Help Me!” screen, which displays addition information on memory use. Just simultaneously click your ALT, Left Shift and H keys. (Learn more expert BlackBerry keyboard shortcuts here.)

The best way to free up BlackBerry application memory is to delete unused or underused application, and no app’s going to help you with that.

Depending on your specific device settings, your BlackBerry very likely frees up memory on its own, as well, as part of a security safeguard. To determine or change these settings, again open up the BlackBerry Options menu, scroll down to and open up the Security Options then Advanced Security Options. Next, open up the Memory Cleaning menu.

On the following screen, you’ll see a number of memory cleaning options, such as Clean When Holstered and Clean When Idle. Each option can be set to your own desired settings, unless you’re on a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) that locks the appropriate fields.

BlackBerry Application Type: Apps that Claim to Measure Cellular Radiation

Reason to Avoid:A number of new applications that boast the ability to measure cellular radiation have popped up in BlackBerry App World and elsewhere online in recent days. The point of such apps is to give you an idea of when your device is emitting the most cellular radiation, and the least radiation, so you can determine the “safest” places to make calls, etc.

Never mind the fact it’s still not scientifically proven that cellular radiation is even potentially harmful& the idea sounds good, right? Sure. Until you employ the apps for a few days and notice that the purported radiation measurements correspond mostly with your cellular signal strength.

For instance, if you’re in an area with poor 3G coverage–one or two bars–your device is probably emitting more “radiation” because it’s constantly communicating with a nearby tower(s). And if you’ve got full 3G, without much deviation in bars, your device is probably likely producing less radiation. It’s that simple.

So, the main lesson I learned from the couple of BlackBerry “radiation apps” I tried: You don’t need an application to look at your signal-strength meter and determine if your device appears to be putting out more or less radiation.

BlackBerry Application Type: Apps That Stream TV Episodes, Video Content

Reason to Avoid: I’m a bit hesitant to lump all of the various television- and video-streaming applications for BlackBerry into one pile here. But honestly, my experience with the majority of services I’ve tried, including the brand new Bitbop app, Sprint TV, AT&T’s Mobile Video, PrimeTime2Go, etc. has been much the same in each case: Unsatisfying.

Even while streaming content over my own home Wi-Fi network, which I must say, is fast, the quality of the streamed content was never satisfactory. Some services offer consistently better video quality. But here’s the biggest problem I experienced with all of these apps and their corresponding services: The audio almost never syncs up correctly with the visual portion of the video. I know network speed has a lot to do with the video-quality on your device. But as stated above, I experimented with all of the services on various networks, with various speeds, and never really got consistently acceptable quality–though I’m admittedly picky and a bit OCD, so the audio/video discrepancy drove me nearly mad.

Since most TV streaming services are subscription-based, I simply cancelled my account or just deleted the apps after a few weeks of use. It wouldn’t hurt to see for yourself, but I bet you’ll come to the same conclusion, assuming you’re like me and expect some degree of quality for $10 or more a month.

My advice: Stick with your PC and the free TV episodes on Hulu for streaming, at least until 4G wireless is the new standard, and/or simply transfer downloaded TV episodes and movies etc. onto your BlackBerry for mobile viewing.


FREE CIO BlackBerry Newsletter

Get better use out of your BlackBerry and keep up-to-date on the latest developments. Sign-up »