Over the past few months, we’ve given you Six Free BlackBerry Downloads You Don’t Want to Miss and Six (More) Free BlackBerry Apps You Don’t Want to Miss — and even offered up seven great downloads for Windows Mobile users.
This week, on a quest to learn more about the best BlackBerry apps out there, we went directly to the source: Research In Motion (RIM) executives. These guys know BlackBerrys, and they spoke with us at RIM’s 7th annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) in Orlando Florida.
We asked Jeff McDowell, VP of global alliances; David Heit, director of software product management, and RIM’s president and co-CEO Mike Lazaridis about their favorite third-party BlackBerry downloads, and each executive had some interesting suggestions.
The following eight downloads, many of which are available for free, are the apps that these three RIM executives find most valuable and use the most frequently.
TeleNav and Garmin GPS for BlackBerry
Like many executives, Heit’s frequently on the move, but he rarely goes anywhere without his BlackBerry. GPS-based apps like TeleNav’s GPS Navigator for BlackBerry and Garmin for BlackBerry help him get where he needs to be on time and as painlessly as possible.
TeleNav’s GPS Navigator offers users a choice of voice or on-screen driving directions. It can also help you find and navigate to nearby restaurants, Wi-Fi hotspots, or any of the company’s other 10 million business listings. And TeleNav provides traffic alerts and rerouting information based on those notifications. (For related coverage, check out our review of TeleNav‘s mobile workforce management product, TeleNav Track.)
Like TeleNav, Garmin Mobile for BlackBerry offers voice or text turn-by-turn navigation throughout North America. It also has some six million “points of interest,” or preprogrammed locales of note. And the Garmin Online service provides traffic information, weather forecasts, local gas prices and more.
Both services are compatible with a variety of BlackBerry devices, including Pearl, Curve and 8800 series handhelds, and can also be combined with an external GPS “pucks” to enable devices without built-in GPS functionality to utilize the service.
Users with internal GPS pay US$99 for access to Garmin Mobile for BlackBerry (that covers you for the life of the device) and $99 per year for TeleNav GPS Navigator. And folks without GPS can pay an additional $50 for a puck from Garmin or $99.99 from TeleNav.
Though McDowell was careful too stress the fact that he didn’t want to play favorites-he is, after all, a VP of RIM’s global alliances business, which fosters relationships with the developers and vendors who create and market BlackBerry applications-he did offer up a few of the downloads that he uses on a regular basis.
One such app is Handmark’s Pocket Express. Pocket Express, an all-around mobile companion for smartphones, provides easy access to travel information, news, weather, maps, sports scores, games, quick Web search, multimedia and more, all within one single app.
Pocket Express works on the vast majority of smartphones, including BlackBerrys all the way from the 7100 to 8830 handhelds, on most of the world’s leading wireless carriers.
Two version of Pocket Express are available, Express Executive and Elite. The Executive edition of the software offers everything mentioned above, plus a 24/7 MobileConcierge service to help answer questions or make reservations around the clock. The base version of the software goes for $6.99 per month or $69.90 per year, and the Elite edition costs $9.99 per month or $99 per year.
Heit and McDowell both had only good things to say about the WorldMate Live travel application. We’ve covered WorldMate Live on numerous occasions in the past-we even filmed a video on how to download and use the app-and like us, these RIM executives we strongly recommend it.
WorldMate Live simplifies travel by automatically delivering content and services to BlackBerrys and other smartphones. There are two version of WorldMate Live, one of which can be downloaded free of charge. The free version features include the My Itineraries function, which stores information on flights, hotels, meetings, public transportation and car rentals on BlackBerrys.
The application also lets users export travel information from booking confirmation e-mails, corporate calendars and more, directly into WorldMate Live, and it automatically assembles their itineraries.
The pay, or Gold Membership, version of WorldMate Live, offers additional functionality including real-time travel alerts, flight and meeting notifications and alternatives to cancelled or delayed flights. The service costs $99.99 for a year-long subscription.
Facebook for BlackBerry
Another popular app we’ve covered frequently on CIO.com, Facebook for BlackBerry, lives on the smartphones of both Heit and Lazaridis.
McDowell says the Facebook app is easily one of the most popular third-party downloads available for BlackBerry, and that’s because it does away with the need to type in a Web address to access your profile page and see recent events or messages. When you’ve got Facebook on your BlackBerry, you need only check our profile when an alert is sent directly to your handheld.
Though not as feature-packed as the real Facebook site (you can’t access groups, for example,) the mobile application displays your home screen notifications, like status updates, and you can “poke” or message friends and write on their Facebook “walls.”
Lists of friends and their status updates are also available with a single click from the mobile home screen, and photo uploading and sharing is as simple as snapping an image with your smartphone’s camera and uploading it to the site from the application’s home screen. The application is free.
Check out our review of Facebook for BlackBerry or watch our video on how to install and use the app for more information on the mobile social networking download.
Let’s face it, the media player that comes standard on current BlackBerry devices is less-than-stellar. Especially since all mobile media players are measured against the current market leader, the iPod and its iTunes software, which are famously easy to use.
BlackBerry users who want to get the most MP3-player-punch from their RIM devices are in luck, thanks to FlipSide.
This recommendation came from Mr. BlackBerry himself, co-CEO Mike Lazaridis, who has FlipSide installed on his BlackBerry Bold.
The application plays MP3 files stored on your memory card and displays full-color album artwork along with each track, if available. Creating playlists is simple. You can even find out additional information about your tunes by accessing the program’s FlipSide Extras option.A free demo of FlipSide is available on ElectricPocket.com, or you can buy it for $19.95 on MobiHand.com.
When it comes to third-party BlackBerry applications, we’ve got one clear favorite: Viigo. And it seems we’re not alone in our love of the mobile RSS feed reader. Jeff McDowell and Mike Lazaridis both have Viigo installed on their current devices and use the app on a regular basis. (It’s also worth noting that Viigo is a Gold Sponsor of this year’s WES event.)
Viigo provides instant access to any Internet RSS feed via a simple and good-looking interface. And it supports the popular Google Reader service, so users can import existing collections of RSS feeds from computers to mobile devices.
The application works with any BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device, and its preserves their user interfaces, so there are no new navigation techniques or tricks to learn. The app pushes feed updates to users’ handhelds and stores them on the devices so that content can be accessed without cellular connectivity.
Best of all, the standard version of Viigo is free. The company also offers two pay versions, Viigo Publisher, which is meant to help content producers or publishers mobilize and easily present their content, and Viigo Corporate Edition (CE), designed to assist enterprises in providing necessary information to employees via mobile devices. See our video on how to download and use Viigo for more details on this great app.
Google Maps Mobile
Finally, the one app that Heit, McDowell and Lazaridis all report using very often: Google Maps Mobile.
“It’s a just a great implementation,” McDowell says of the app. “I use it a LOT.”
Google Maps for BlackBerry provides location-based information and services to mobile handsets with or without the use of GPS. The “My Location” function employs nearby cell towers to determine rough locations of mobile phone users, so no information needs to be entered.
The application also provides satellite imagery from the Google Earth service and can deliver walking instructions or driving directions with real-time traffic alerts in some 30 major U.S. cities. The application is available for a plethora of mobile phones, free of charge.
Heit jokes that he often uses the app to look at Satellite images of his home, and that he can even see the cars that were in the driveway when the images were captured. Heit also raves about the other Google Mobile services available to BlackBerry users, like the Web search icon, available via the Google Mobile Updater.