RIM Roundup: Top 13 Newsworthy BlackBerry Apps, Updates

A brand new App World, new desktop software, and a whole raft of new BlackBerry apps and updates -- August was a great month to be a BlackBerry OS user. And, September is shaping up to be a stellar month, too, as Research In Motion just scooped up some of the assets and developers at DataViz -- the company behind Documents To Go, a mobile app which lets you view and create Microsoft Office compatible documents, spreadsheets, presentations and PDFs. Documents To Go currently works on a variety of mobile devices including the iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, Nokia's Maemo and BlackBerry handsets, and RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) says the purpose of the deal is to get the former DataViz employees focusing on the BlackBerry platform. (Editor's Note: DataViz has said it will still provide apps on the Android and iOS platforms, among others.)

Perhaps the most significant news of the last few weeks, however, was the launch of BlackBerry App World 2.0, which you can downloaded free over the air or from your existing version of App World. The new download center takes a leaf out of Apple's book by enabling developers to offer Blackberry apps for just 99 cents, and also includes Apple-style Top 25 lists of free, paid, newest and most recently updated apps.

Other new features include credit card and wireless billing options; the ability to download an app from App World on the web by scanning a barcode; and a personal BlackBerry ID making it easier to keep your paid apps when you switch BlackBerry handsets.

August also saw the release of the souped-up BlackBerry Desktop Manager 6 for your PC. As well as adding support for the new Torch 9800 and Curve 9300 mobile devices, it adds Media Sync for your music, photos and videos -- including wireless Wi-Fi music syncing if your device is running BlackBerry 6, the new BlackBerry OS -- all rolled up in an updated and simplified user interface. The software is available as a free download.

And completing the set, last month RIM also released an update to BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, the free server software which wirelessly synchronizes your BlackBerry device with Microsoft Exchange. Version 5.0.2 of BES Express is available here.

When it comes to mobile apps, August saw an important update to Xobni for BlackBerry, the bizarrely named but very smart address book app for your mobile device. Xobni compiles and updates itself automatically by trawling your email, SMS phone logs and calendar data, and pulls in information from FaceBook and LinkedIn as well. It also ranks your contacts in terms of the frequency with which you communicate with them so your most important contacts are always at the top. The app update includes search speed improvements, performance enhancements for local data integration, and better connectivity with LinkedIn, FaceBook and the BlackBerry address book, costs $9.99.

If you're a heavy IM user then you may want to try out Cerulean Studios' Trillian, the well known multi-protocol desktop IM client that was released as a BlackBerry app. Trillian for BlackBerry supports just about every network including AIM/ICQ, MSN, Yahoo, Jabber, MySpaceIM and FaceBook Chat, supports multiple accounts simultaneously, and encrypts all passwords during transmission to ensure security. The Trillian BlackBerry app is available through App World for $4.99.

Talking of networks, LinkedIn for BlackBerry -- the mobile app for the business-oriented social network -- was updated to version 1.2. If you're a fan of LinkedIn and haven't tried the BlackBerry app or you have a previous version of LinkedIn on your mobile device you can download the app from App World or directly from LinkedIn. The update significantly improves performance and reduces battery usage as well as fixing several minor bugs.

If you're looking for a tool to help you be more productive with your BlackBerry, Basis Design believe it can help with its mProductive mobile app, released last month. mProductive lets you view all your "To Dos" arranged by date and link related items like meetings, appointments, tasks and memos together to give you a picture of your activities for a given day. You can also create or add to action items with a single click from email, calls or SMS messages which are then moved automatically to your BlackBerry tasks, calendar and memos. It sounds complicated, but you can pick up a free 21 day trial version to see if it works for you. The full retail version is priced at $29.99 and is available from App World.

Evernote is another tool that many people use to boost their productivity, by making notes and storing web pages, images and voice memos that can be accessed later on any device running an Evernote client. The free Evernote for BlackBerry mobile app was updated in August with a key new feature: it now includes a native note browser and viewer so you can see your notes within the Evernote for BlackBerry app instead of having to jump to the BlackBerry browser to do so. Other enhancements include better search performance and improved networking, plus several bug fixes. Evernote for BlackBerry is available free from App World.

Epic Applications also recently introduced Home to Phone, a clever little BlackBerry app that lets you send links from your desktop browser to your mobile device using BlackBerry Push technology. It also will copy phone numbers from web pages which are sent to your phone to dial automatically. The application also works the other way, allowing you to send links from your phone to your desktop machine for later browsing. The app works with Firefox or Chrome (beta) with a Home to Phone extension installed, or with a dedicated Windows application (with a Mac one in the pipeline, according to Epic.) Home to Phone is available for $2.99 from MobiHand, and there' also a free trial download.

If you travel around much in your line of work you'll find the August update to Google Maps for BlackBerry useful. This release now includes Google Places, which lets you search for Restaurants, Shops, Gas & Automotive, Lodging and various other categories directly from Google Maps, either by text or by voice. Version 4.4.0 is available free.

More good news for BlackBerry users: First Orion released an update to PrivacyStar 2.0 for BlackBerry Smartphones, featuring a brand new user interface. The app features call blocking -- including the automatic blocking of calls from PrivacyStar's blacklist; caller lookup to identify unknown callers by name; and the capturing of detailed information about possible telemarketing violations including date, time, number and identity. It also automates the process of supplying this information to law enforcement authorities for further action. PrivacyStar 2.0 is available now from App World. You can try the mobile app free for 7 days, after which it costs $2.99 per month.

Finally, if you're in the habit of holding meetings in the nearest Starbucks then you may want to download the Starbucks Card Mobile App for BlackBerry, released last month. Once you've got this free mobile app you simply enter your Starbucks Card number and from that moment on your BlackBerry becomes your Starbucks Card. You can use the app to find Starbucks stores, check your balance and keep an eye on how many more drinks you need to buy till you get a free coffee through My Starbucks Rewards.

In selected Starbucks stores in Seattle and Silicon Valley and all Target Starbucks stores you can even pay for your drink using the mobile app: enter your card number and your BlackBerry will display a barcode which you can use to make your purchase. To download the app text GO to 7084.

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