The five best free BlackBerry downloads on the Web

If you’re anything like me, you spend entirely too much time poring through Web pages and online search engines seeking the latest and greatest free BlackBerry downloads for your Research In Motion (RIM) smartphone. But today’s your lucky day. Today, the search stops right here.

Over the past weeks and months, I’ve worked hard to deliver to you the best free BlackBerry applications the Internet has to offer. I dug up my top picks for free open source BlackBerry apps, the best mobile Twitter apps, and the highest quality BlackBerry Storm software. I even asked RIM’s co-CEO and two additional executives for their favorite free BlackBerry software, then delivered the answers directly to you.

This time around, I picked a handful of new apps that promise to vastly improve your BlackBerry’s audio experience, help you rapidly browse the Web, manage your online DVD mailing account, find just about anything from anywhere, and even grab screen captures of your device’s display without the need for a PC.

Slacker Radio for BlackBerry: Your New Radio is…Your BlackBerry!?!

It’s rare, but every once and a while a new BlackBerry application comes along and single-handedly raises the bar for all other mobile apps. The last such piece of software I can remember to fit this description is Viigo, the ultimate mobile RSS reader and lifestyle app.

For a long time, Viigo has been my favorite free BlackBerry app, but today, thanks to Slacker Radio for BlackBerry, I’m just not sure anymore.

Slacker Radio Home Screen on BlackBerry

Slacker Radio for BlackBerry is an easy to use, personal Internet radio app that brings unlimited free music to your RIM smartphone. More than 100 pre-programmed “genre stations” let you listen to a variety of artists and ensembles for as long as you want–or your battery lasts. And the app works well on just about any BlackBerry device running RIM’s handheld OS v4.3 or higher and with at least an EDGE or another 2.5G data connection. The app also works over Wi-Fi. (For best results, employ Slacker for BlackBerry on a device running BlackBerry OS 4.5 or higher.)

The best thing about Slacker for BlackBerry? Why, it’s free of course–or at least there’s a free option. To employ the new app, simply surf on over to using your BlackBerry browser and follow the on-screen download instructions. Once the app’s installed, you can either log in to an existing Slacker account or create a new one.

You’ll have two options for account creation: 1) a free account, which delivers the occasional audio and visual advertisements and lets you skip over songs just six times an hour; and 2) the commercial version, which is available via subscription for $3.99 a month–$47.88 a year–and doesn’t have a limit for song skips or requests.

Slacker Radio on the BlackBerry Bold

And though Slacker mobile also works on the iPhone and iPod touch, one of its most valuable features is currently restricted to the BlackBerry-specific version: station “caching.” The ability to cache, or store, Slacker stations on your BlackBerry’s media card means that you can listen to your favorite tunes without wireless connectivity, which makes the app particularly well suited for use during travel. (You must have at least 500MB of free space on your media card to cache Slacker stations.)

And like most BlackBerry apps, it supports multitasking, so you can, say, play a game of BrickBreaker while jamming out to the Beatles on Slacker.

More details on Slacker Radio for BlackBerry can be found online.

Bolt Browser for BlackBerry: Lightning Speed

RIM is a legend in the smartphone space: Its keyboards are inimitable; its “push” e-mail delivery system is the envy of the mobile industry. But the company’s browser? That’s a whole different story. The BlackBerry browser sucks; it’s relatively slow, awkward to use and doesn’t always render pages correctly, among other complaints. (The BlackBerry browser on the Storm, in OS v4.7, is a step in the right direction, but still…)

I’ve offered up free alternatives to the BlackBerry browser in the pastâ¬namely, Opera Mini–but today, there’s a new kid on the browser-block: Bolt.

Bolt Browser for BlackBerry

I have a few quibbles with Bolt–it too has problems rendering certain pages; it uses a proxy server, which could be considered a privacy/security risk; and it’s still in beta and is a bit unstable. But whatever it lacks in these categories, it makes up for in speed.

Bolt is fast, Fast, FAST; in fact, it’s the speediest mobile browser I’ve ever used. And it employs similar shortcuts to Opera Mini for scrolling, zooming and other page navigation, so it shouldn’t take you long to get used to it. And Bitstream, the company that makes Bolt, also says the browser uses one-third of the battery life of comparable mobile browsers.

As mentioned above, Bolt is still in beta testing, and as such, you’ll need to request an invite for a free download at this point. But Bolt ought to be hitting the big-time any day now, and you can expect to find a download link on the Bolt website as soon as it does.

(Note: Bolt is not BlackBerry specific and will work on a wide variety of Internet-connected mobile devices.)

SmartFlicks: Netflix for Your BlackBerry

I’m an unabashed film buff; I love movies and DVDs. But it’s been quite some time since I stepped foot into a brick and mortar movie rental joint like Blockbuster or Hollywood Video to pick up a flick. I’ve long been a user of the Netflix DVD mailing service, as the price is right, selection is great and you can’t beat the convenience of having movies delivered directly to your door.

I’ve always wished for more though: Wouldn’t it be handy if you could access your account via mobile device, and add movies to your online queue whenever, and wherever, you might be. Thanks to Pyxis Mobile and its SmartFlicks app, my wish is now a reality.

SmartFlicks on BlackBerry

The SmartFlicks free BlackBerry app lets you manage and update your NetFlix account from anywhere there’s cellular connectivity. You can not only add and remove titles from your movie queue, but also reorder them at any point with no restrictions. You can even add films to your “Instant” queue for future viewing on your TV. (A Netflix compatible DVR, Blu-ray player of other peripheral is required for Instant viewing.)

The free BlackBerry app also offers up-to-date movie news, recommendations for future rentals, a film search feature and “What’s Hot” and “Coming Soon” tabs for information on the most popular films and actors at a giving time. And its clean, intuitive user interface makes employing SmartFlicks almost as much fun as watching the movies it helps you procure

Download SmartFlicks here.

Where for BlackBerry: Your GPS-Based Search Companion

You can find plenty of local search applications for BlackBerry devicesâ¬some free, some not; others GPS-based, others not. One of my early favorites in this category was Beyond411 for BlackBerry. Then there was Poynt. Now there’s Where.

Where on BlackBerry Bold

What’s truly valuable about Where? You can customize it to your own specific needs and tastes: the app uses your phone’s built-in–or externally connected–GPS data, along with a set of custom widgets, to let you know what sorts of businesses and establishments are around you at any given time. And you can also use Where to find out information about those specific establishments.

For example, the free Where app comes with widgets for finding gas prices in your area; pinpointing events; locating the nearest Starbucks and digging up local user reviews on Yelp. But that’s not all; Where lets users download a variety of additional widgets that provide information on items like local golf courses and the “10 Best” food/travel/hospitality recommendations for specific cities.

Where is available to users of BlackBerry Bold 9000, 8800, Curve and Pearl series devices, though whether or not the app will work on your smartphone depends on your wireless carrier. T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless users appear to be out of luck, for now at least, but AT&T, Boost Mobile, Helio, metroPCS, Sprint and Virgin Mobile customers shouldn’t have any issues with Where.

Where GPS App on BlackBerry Bold

Capture It with On-Device BlackBerry Screen Shots

Have you ever wanted to take a picture of your BlackBerry device’s screen, to help a friend with a handheld-related issue or describe a problem of your own to your IT help desk? If so, your days of fiddling with a camera to get a decent shot of your BlackBerry’s shiny screen are over.

Thanks to Capture It, a free, on-device application that grabs images of whatever’s on your BlackBerry’s display and saves them as .jpeg files in your Pictures directory, snapping BlackBerry screen shots couldn’t be easier.

Capture It on BlackBerry

First you download and install the app to your device, set it as a device convenience key and you’re good to go. (To assign Capture It as a BlackBerry convenience key, launch the Options icon, click Screen/Keyboard, scroll down to the “Convenience Key Opens” section and choose Capture It from one of the corresponding drop-down menus. Finally, hit the Escape key to exit the Screen/Keyboard screen and then save your modifications when prompted.)

Taking BlackBerry screen shot from there is as simple as tapping the corresponding convenience key whenever something you want to capture is on screen. And you can transfer the jpeg files from your BlackBerry to a computer or other device using Bluetooth, USB, e-mail or MMS.

Download Capture It via BlackBerry browser here.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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