Thinking About Blackberry Apps

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While everybody else is talking about apps for the iPhone, I’ve been playing around with my Blackberry’s apps and some interesting things popped out at me.

I use a theme on my Blackberry that allows me to see my five favorite apps on the right side of the screen which opens up the remainder of the screen for the photo I’ve got as my home screen. I love having photos of people and places on my blackberry home screen so I use that theme most of the time. But I can quickly move to a screen with all of my apps on it.

Even when I am on the screen with all of my apps on it, I want them ordered in a way that the most used ones are on top and the least used ones are on the bottom.

So yesterday, when I was changing my home screen picture, I also started moving the apps around based on how I think I really use them. Most used would be on the upper left and least used would be on the lower right. I’d never actually taken the time to think really hard about what I use most and what I use least.

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So here’s the order of the top fifteen apps on my Blackberry (based on no real data, just my gut):

1) email – no surprise there
2) text messaging – absolutely true in the US, not as much in europe due to cost
3) BBM – blackberry messenger is my "batphone", only four people are on it – my family
4) browser – yes I wish it was the iPhone browser but I use my BB browser constantly
5) camera – just visit my flickr page to see how good the photos are on this phone
——– that’s my main screen most of the time
6) google maps – when I travel this could be my most used app
7) audio profile – i move this around constantly; quiet, vibrate, normal ring, loud ring
8) calendar – the one desktop productivity app that is more useful on my blackberry
9) address book – i don’t use if very often but it’s nice to have
10) voice – funny that the "phone" app barely makes the top ten on my phone
11) alarm clock – along with google maps, the killer app for travel
12) lock – i lock the phone whenever i put it in my pocket, probably should be #1 or #2
13) brickbreaker – i don’t play but my wife and kids do and often play on my phone
14) calculator – i use this every once in a while
15) media – i rarely use this, when i do it’s for managing ring tones

I really don’t use any other apps on my Blackberry with the exception of the configuration apps (options, set up wifi, set up bluetooth, manage connections, setup wizard). I suppose I should remove the rest of the apps from the phone but can’t be bothered to do that.

So here’s the observations that popped out to me by going through this exercise.

My "phone" is a data device. The nine most used apps on it are data apps. I rarely use voice on my blackberry and when I do it’s usually a conference call where I use the speakerphone application. I think text based messaging is just so much better than voice for a non face to face conversation.

I use three text messaging systems, email, SMS, and BBM. And I’ve (not sure if this was conscious) set them up in declining access. Everyone can reach me on email. Many less (but still a lot) can reach me on SMS. Only my family can reach me on BBM.

The browser is a critical app on the phone. Other than text messaging, it’s the most important app. I use it to access all my web apps. The most imporant ones being google search, slandr (my favorite mobile twitter app), summize, techmeme, and a host of news sources).

The cameria is also critical. I probably average 10-20 photos a day on my camera and a good deal of them end up on the web somewhere; flickr, tumblr, or twitpic.

Location aware devices are game changers. Nothing new here. Everyone’s been saying it. But having google maps with "my location" on my phone has made all the difference in the world here in Paris, not just for me, but for everyone in our family.

And all of this is on a device that does not facilitate app installation in quite the same way that the iPhone does. It’s worth noting that only one of my top 15 apps doesn’t come with the phone, that being google maps.

But downloading apps onto the Blackberry is easy and it’s "open". All you need to do is go to a web URL (discoverable via google search) and download the app. I’ve done it at least a dozen times. But other than google maps I really have not found a great Blackberry app, certainly not one that has made it into my regular routine.

So what does all of this tell me? Well for one, the revolution that is being celebrated by and driven by the iPhone enthusiasts is happening all over the mobile world. The phone is a mobile computer connected to the Internet that will be used primarily for data driven apps. And the app ecosystems that develop around the phones will increasingly determine their popularity and their utility. That’s how it always has been in the computer business and that’s how it will be in the mobile business.