Four “must have” BlackBerry apps and a game

Ever found yourself fumbling to get your keys into a lock in the dark, with your BlackBerry in reach but without a light? Or wondered just how fast your BlackBerry can download files or upload images at any given time? If so, you’ve come to the right page.

Over the past weeks and months, I’ve delivered a pile of free BlackBerry downloads, my favorites of which include free open source software, Internet radio apps, voice-powered search software and BlackBerry-Storm-specific downloads–even a handful of apps recommended by Research In Motion (RIM) executives, including Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis.

This week, I’ve got four more can’t miss BlackBerry apps to offer, plus a game, all gratis.

I’m offering a quick and easy way to shorten, copy and distribute Web page addresses on your handheld; a simple method to gauge your BlackBerry’s download- and upload-speeds; an upgraded social networking app; a built-in BlackBerry flash light; and last but not least, a mobile version of one of the great, classic video games.

Make sure your ‘Berry’s battery is charged up and you’ve got some free time on your hands, ’cause you’re going to need both.

1) Bit.lify: Simply Shrink and Share URLs via BlackBerry

Let’s face it: Some Web page addresses, or URLs, are simply too long to manage–especially using a mobile device, like a BlackBerry.

We’ve all tried to paste long Web addresses into e-mail messages, only to have the links arrive broken and near-useless on the receiving end.

If you’re using a desktop computer, there are plenty of options to quickly and easily shorten URLs to make them more manageable, the most popular of which is probably,

However, shrinking Web page addresses via BlackBerry and services like TinyUrl isn’t quite as simple, due to the number of pages you’d need to navigate through using the less-than-stellar BlackBerry browser.

That’s where bit.lify comes in. Created by Ubiquitous Systems, the company behind the popular beta BlackBerry Twitter client SocialScope, bit.lify makes shortening, sharing–even tracking–URLs easy as clicking your BlackBerry Menu key.

Before installation, you should create a account for future access to your usage history, tracking stats and personal preferences.

Once your account is activated and the app installed, bit.lify appears as a BlackBerry Menu option. To employ the app, simply navigate to any page you wish to “bit.lify,” click the Menu key–directly to the left of your trackball–and choose “bit.lify.”

You’ll then be prompted by the app to choose your URL distribution method–E-mail, SMS or PIN message–or you can opt to simply copy the new, shortened page address.

If you elect to send the URL, a message will be generated within the appropriate app and your new URL will be pasted within the message body. If you copy the link, your “bit.lified” URL will be available to paste whenever you’re ready, using the BlackBerry Menu key.

Download bit.lify over the air (OTA) via BlackBerry browser.

2) BlackBerry Speedtest: Gauge EDGE, 3G and Wi-Fi Download/Upload Speeds

Xtreme Labs’ Speedtest for BlackBerry app is exactly what its name suggests: A piece of software that lets you test you BlackBerry device’s wireless download and upload speeds. And it’s incredibly easy to use.

After downloading the app, you simply click the Speedtest icon, accept whatever permissions requests the app asks of you and choose “Start Speedtest.”

Your device will then evaluate your BlackBerry’s wireless network connection speeds. Best of all, the app works with every trackball-based BlackBerry–all 8xxx series devices except for the 87xx family–and the Storm 95xx.

And Speedtest for BlackBerry also lets you test different types of networks, including 3G and Wi-Fi.

You can also e-mail your test results by clicking the BlackBerry Menu key after the test is complete and selecting “E-Mail Result.”

I’ve noticed a few minor bugs in the app, and there’s really no good way to specify which network type you want to evaluate without disabling the ones you don’t, but all and all, Speedtest for BlackBerry’s worth a look.

Download Xtreme Labs’ Speedtest OTA using your BlackBerry browser.

3) MySpace for BlackBerry: Taking Social Networking Mobile

If you haven’t heard of social networking giant MySpace yet, it’s unlikely that any number of free BlackBerry applications can help you since you’re probably inhabiting a cave somewhere in which wireless coverage is nonexistent.

But BlackBerry users familiar with the social networking “fad” and all its major players, including MySpace, want to listen up: RIM just released a new version of its popular MySpace for BlackBerry application, v1.5.

Just last week, RIM upgraded its MySpace offering, and the new version adds a couple valuable features, including the ability to view Friend updates from inside the app; modified and improved messaging options, so users have more desktop-app-like functionality via BlackBerry; and enhanced language support for French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Not unlike Facebook for BlackBerry, the MySpace app lets users pick options from a home screen menu to view Mail, Friend Updates, Friend Requests, Comments, Friend Lists and Photo Albums.

Initially released in early November 2008, MySpace for BlackBerry quickly shattered download records for both RIM and the social networking giant, with more than 400,000 downloads and upwards of 15,000,000 messages sent within the first week of availability.

Download MySpace for BlackBerry v1.5 OTA using your BlackBerry Browser.

4) ExtraLight Flashlight App: Turn Your BlackBerry LED Into a Flashlight

The ExtraLight flashlight app for BlackBerry is just about as simple as mobile applications get, and that’s really why I like it so much.

You simply surf on over to The-Wongs.Net download page using your BlackBerry to install the app and you’ve got a built-in flash light whenever you might need one.

After downloading and installing ExtraLight, it appears in your device’s downloads folder–assuming you’re running BlackBerry handheld OS v4.6 or higher–where you can simply click its icon to turn you BlackBerry’s LED indicator into a portable light.

When you wish to disable the light, just hit the BlackBerry Menu key and choose Close.

The LED itself is extremely bright, but its tiny size means the total amount of “white” light it provides won’t exactly illuminate a room.

It is, however, perfect for finding your way around in a dark or shadowy space, and it should make locating a car or front door lock in the middle of the night a heck of a lot easier.

Note: ExtraLight does it eat up a lot of battery power, so you’ll want to use it sparingly–or become very familiar with my BlackBerry battery-saving tips.

5) BBTetris: One of the Classics Comes to BlackBerry

I don’t even want to think about how many hours of my life I’ve wasted playing video games, but if I had to identify the titles that got the most of my time, various iterations of Tetris would surely make the list.

Now, thanks to Papped and it’s free BB Tetris game–donation are welcome and appreciated, I’m sure–the fun doesn’t have to stop when you leave home…as long as you have a BlackBerry, that is.

Like previous versions of the game, BBTetris lets you move and manipulate falling blocks into formation for as long as you can before your screen fills up and the game ends.

I’m not sure how many levels are available in the BlackBerry version–I’ve only reached the 11th stage–but there are more than enough to keep you occupied for a long plane ride.

The controls used in game play include the BlackBerry Q, A, S and Space keys, as well as the trackball; A moves blocks to the left, S to the right–the trackball is also for horizontal movement; the Q button increases the speed of blocks’ descent; and Space rotates them.

The music is noteworthy, as well. Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” which has appeared in almost every version of Tetris I’ve ever seen, rotates between at least a couple more tunes.

You can also turn the sound off if you’re not a fan of Russian composers.

And the game keeps track of all your best scores so you can prove your prowess to potential challengers.

Best of all: BBTetris is true to the BlackBerry platform; the image that sits behind the game during play is a large, BlackBerry seven-dot logo.

Note: BBTetris is available only for Pearl 81xx, Curve 83xx and 89xx, 88xx and Bold 9000 devices.

Download Papped BBTetris game OTAvia BlackBerry browser.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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