Thinking About Blackberry Apps

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.


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.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. Anthony Papillion

    As a fellow Blackberry user trapped in a world full of iPhone driven mania, it’s nice to see someone who still sees the Blackberry as a valuable and serious competitor. Personally, I’ve tried both the iPhone and the Blackberry Curve and, I have to say, I don’t *ever* use my iPhone anymore. It’s been in the drawer since about a week after I got my Blackberry Curve and, now, I can’t imagine life without my Blackberry.Like you, I also have my apps organized in a top-down fashion but mine is slightly different than yours.My “top 10” are:1. SMS2. Email3. Voice Note4. Camera5. Address Book6. Phone7. Camera8. Browser9. Media10. CalendarOf course, these change all the time depending on what I happen to be involved in. There have been times when my Calender stayed at the number one spot for weeks and my browser is often in the #3 or #4 spot as I use it pretty often too.The camera always stays pretty low as I have assigned a hotkey to the camera function so it doesn’t matter where it is.The Blackberry is a good, solid, and still very cool device. While the iPhone is the current soup of the day, Blackberry has proven to be a mainstay and with the new models coming out soon it will continue to be so for years to come.Thanks for giving us a peek at yours…

    1. fredwilson

      Wow, voice noteI should try that one outI’ve never used it

      1. Paul Lightfoot

        I used to use voice notes all the time. Particularly when driving or walking down the street. I’d send myself a reminder of a thought I had with a voice note that would come to me by email. But I ditched it recently and now use “Jott” instead. I have Jott as “J” in my speed dial and just leave a voice mail to myself that gets emailed to me in text format. The leaving of the message is no faster, but the retrieval of the content is much better (don’t need to listen to it).

        1. fredwilson

          I am thinking of michael keaton’s character in Night Shift as I read this ­čÖé

  2. Dustin

    My home screen looks very similar to yours except I did one more thing… I added two folders “admin” and “apps” where I throw all the extra apps that do not make my top 12 list. It cleans up the screen a bit… and keeps all my top apps always on my home screen.

  3. Amit Agarwal

    Fred – While the BB browser is not bad, I would suggest getting the Opera Mini for BB – it rocks. You may also want to check Yahoo! Go for BB – beautiful interface and you get live data like weather, stock ,etc.

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks for the suggestionsI’ve tried yahoo go. Maybe I’ll give it another shot. I tend to use the web for that stuff

      1. billerickson

        I also recommend using Opera Mini – I can’t stand to use the default browser on the Blackberry now that I’ve become used to Opera.

  4. josh20

    You should put the lock icon in the lower left hand corner. This way you can always easily lock your phone without looking.

    1. Danvers

      Or even better, on my bb I have set one of the side buttons to “lock” – althought I still manage to randomly text/email/call people when I have it in the side pocket of my trousers – doh!

      1. Dan Entin

        I do the same thing as josh20 – I highly recommend it.Danvers – I think the Convenience keys are too useful to use one of them to “lock”. I have my left convenience key set to Profiles (phone only) which is great for toggling between “phone only” when I’m at my desk and other more intrusive settings when I’m about. I use my right convenience key for the Camera. Really happy with this setup.

  5. gzino

    Isn’t that exactly why iPhone/App Store is such a game changer? Even you as an early adopter with extensive road warrior and communications needs have only one third-party app in your top 15. How many apps does the *general public* use on their mobiles and how many of those are third-party? Of course the critical assumption is that Apple has simplified the user experience and process enough for the masses (or at least that Apple marketing will create that perception and the experience will be close enough), and that app developers will see a viable mobile app biz oppt and market.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes and noI have downloaded a bunch of bberry apps directly from the web. In fact, Iprefer that ┬│open model┬▓ to a centralized store. It’s not that I can’t findapps, it’s just that I haven’t found many good onesFred

  6. Parand

    I hadn’t thought about it this way, but if the BB browser was actually the iPhone browser then I’d probably get rid of the iPhone and happily live with the BB. For all its fanciness, iPhone’s real killer app is its browsing capability. You’d imagine BB would be able to come up with a decent browser…

  7. dvsDave

    There is actually a great twitter app for the blackberry that allows you to post using your data connection, not a SMS connection. Called TwitterBerry. Instrumental in getting me to use Twitter without cringing (I don’t have unlimited SMS messages)

    1. fredwilson

      I’ve tried it twice and don’t like it at allI much prefer the web app

      1. Dan Entin

        It’s actually

  8. Mo

    Couple of thoughts on the Apple App Store that Blackberry needs to replicate:1. App Store will be a curator of mobile apps so to speak. Let’s say you are looking for a to-do list application, sure you can type in Google and browse all the various suggestions or you can just go to the App Store, right on your iPhone and read reviews, view the most popular, weight free vs. pay option and download it and start using it. One suggestion I think needs to happens is what Twitterific is doing, more software developers need to come out with Freemium software. I am tempted to try out many of the games in the App Store but I don’t want to pay for it right away, I want to see if I like the App before I will buy it. This is certainly true for games.2. Yes, it is great to have open systems and free software providers but I do get a sense of security (even if it is false, I highly doubt it) that the app I am about to download from the App Store is not going to take my phone and my lifestream broadcast ability away because it is buggy or virus-y or any of the other reasons that millions of PCs these days are infected with spy-mal-ad-virus-ware. So Apple is not only creating a software distribution platform but also one that says trust us, this app will not destroy your iPhone. This seems naive and useless for people like us but for lot of non-tech savvy users this is feature that delivers a lot of relief. Last thing they want is Symantec or McAfee for their mobile devices.

    1. fredwilson

      But or some other web service can do that too and there can bemultiple versions of them.There is no need for all of this to happen through the iTunes store

      1. Dan Entin

        Fred – companies like Handango have been serving this function for PDA enthusiasts for years. I say PDA enthusiasts specifically because none of them have successfully created a blockbuster brand or service. Perhaps it’s bad business execution and not the model (certainly not a lack of funding in Handango’s case). I know you hate iTunes but I don’t think you can argue with its success or propose that digital music would be what it is today without it. In the same way I think for the iPhone platform an iTunes store will ultimately drive greater consumer adoption than an open model.

  9. Anuj

    Good post.. but remember its coming from a “geek’/ business user. One key aspect you are missing is the value of phone as a fashion accessory – RIM no way comes close to that. The candy blackberry Pearl flopped by iPhone comparison.I think no one will beat Blackberry on email functionality but iPhone had done everything else right, just like the iPods, everything works seamlessly in the iPhones. The blackberry on the other hand did not integrate well with browsers or anything else. I agree with you that this thing is a computer in itself, its much more advanced than the computers I used in pre year 2000 era. Anyone who harnesses this power is going to be the leader in this market.In Job’s keynote earlier this year, he gave some numbers like 4 million iPhones sold is 19.5% of the market and RIM is sitting on 39%. I wouldn’t be surprised if these percentages are reversed in 2008-09 timeframe.

    1. fredwilson

      I think you may be right if the enterprise starts allowing iPhones

  10. josh guttman

    I agree with those favoring the blackberry to the iPhone. iPhone is not ready, in my opinion, to serve as a serious business utility device –

  11. Daryll Strauss

    I set up my Blackberry very similar to you, but have a few suggestions for you.If you’re using the Zen theme you can get to the audio profile tool by moving to the top of the screen and then moving to the right. That little trick was a pleasant surprise.I created a folder in the application screen and threw all the apps that I never use in that folder. It just leaves fewer apps on that secondary screen.When I set up my phone this way, I realized I didn’t have the phone application there. You don’t really need it, because pressing the green button brings it up. You can then get to your address book by typing the letters of the name. So you don’t need that app either.I don’t put the camera on the main screen, because pressing the camera button on the right on the curve brings it up.Since I don’t use push to talk, I assigned the left button to Google maps. Again, that takes it off the main screen.My biggest complaint about the Blackberry is the browser. One of the comments here suggested Opera instead. If Opera is as good as Safari that would go a long way towards equalizing the functionality and I would be willing to pay for that. I should also check out the Yahoo service as well.Not only is the Blackberry a great data device (although I do use it like a phone a lot too) but RIM really has done a nice job integrating the functionality. The way the apps work and the shortcuts in them are really well done and often subtle. I’ve really come to appreciate them.

    1. fredwilson

      Wow thanks for all this. Really good advice

  12. sass

    It is odd and sad that Palm is routinely missing from these conversations. As an early fan of the Palm OS (switching to Palm devices from the awesome Psion Series3), I have owned just about every iteration of the Treo and currently live quite happily by my Sprint 755p (and satisfy my Apple envy with an iPod Touch). Long before the dawn of Portable Media Players and Smartphones there was this thing called the PDA. Palm owned the category, and had a large, vibrant and creative developer community. My guess is that there have been more than 30,000 applications written for the Palm OS since the introduction of the first Palm Pilot. That is why, when the Smartphone category emerged (at the time I was using the original Blackberry, which was a Pager not a phone) I opted for the Palm OS Treo (originally a Handspring device) so that I could continue to use the many portable applications I had grown fond of on my PDA. To this day my Treo is loaded with great apps, every bit as useful as your Blackberry Top 10. It has a good camera, with video. A more than decent browser. It syncs in realtime, Blackberry like, with my company’s Exchange Server, and all in all it is a solid device. That said, RIM and Steve Jobs have done great jobs to grab the limelight (and marketshare) from the boy who should have been King. As much as I love my Treo and my collection of Palm apps, I suspect that the next time I change phones it will very likely be a Blackberry or an iPhone… Palm is just no longer “da bomb”…

    1. fredwilson

      Our first mobile app investment, made in 1999, was in vindigo, the developer of a popular location based service app for the palmIt had to move onto phones to survive. I learned a lot from that investment

      1. sass

        Yep, I know Vindigo well. I was a co-founder of, an early (too early) mobile commerce player and Palm partner, and was close with Vindigo, AvantGo, etc. at the time. I am playing with Skydeck, Jason’s latest, but haven’t used it enough to draw a conclusion yet…

        1. fredwilson

          Me too

          1. RAGZ

            You guys and my mom. She’s still using her Treo and I don’t think she’ll ever switch. I think they could still turn themselves around, but they need to take some serious self-evaluation measures, and learn from the success of iPhone and Rim upstarts.

  13. Jim in Colorado

    I am a die hard Blackberry user for many years now and I had one day to play with the 3G before losing it (left it on the roof of my car — long story), but after a day of use the blackberry still kills in email. As soon as I got active sync setup on the iphone I soon realized I had numerous filters set up on my blackberry that you cant do on the iphone. Also, with over 1000 contacts, the contact app loaded very slow. I still like that the iphone renders html, but it is more difficult to get through a large inbox for a heavy email user.Another app that I use on the blackberry and its the only one I have every paid for or considered paying for is the beejive IM. Its like adium for the blackberry. I live on AIM and MSN. all my business contacts are there.The reason I think I will still switch to the iphone (if I can figure a way to get another), is I am tired of getting links in emails, texts, etc and not being able to really open them. Also, I have a large need to pull up data on the fly both in the US and internationally from web apps that just arent usable on a BB Browser. Reason I want it internationally is I am sick of paying ┬ú15 for 15 minutes of internet usage in my London hotel rooms when with a decent phone browser I could accomplish same thing.

    1. user239

      on first impression, i find jivetalk’s menu a bit overwhelming. does it have no way to combine two different IDs of the same person (like adium)? i think it’s more like the trillian of blackberry.

  14. Jackson Miller

    My Blackberry is setup almost exactly the same (I do use the Facebook and Twitter apps). Oh, and the side buttons on my phone take me to the camera and the combined email/sms “messages” screen. I use those two heavily.I just bought the iPhone 3G and it is my first iPhone so I am not fully acclimated yet. However, you might want to know that when I tried to leave this comment from my iPhone the page jumped to the top of the page and then back to the comment form with every single character I entered. Might be something weird about Disqus on the iPhone?

  15. MParekh

    Good post Fred…my BB Curve app line-up is very similar…but some third-partys apps have made it onto my home screen…ones I use a lot: Google Reader, The New York Times, VZ Navigator (yes, I pay the $7/month, but have found the turn-by-turn service indispensable in the most unexpected places and times).The only build-in app that’s in my top ten in addition to the ones you listed is Video camera, which I use more often than expected with a 6Gig memory card (feature/capability still missing even on my 3G iPhone).Am still searching for a couple of killer games on the Blackberry, especially Solitaire and other card games…have tried a few but none have made it to the home stack.

  16. Nik Kalyani

    Like some of the other commenters, I too have a separate folder into which I put all the stuff I don’t use regularly. My home screen has:1) Phone2) Messages3) Browser4) Twitterberry5) TeleNav (use this a lot while driving)6) Google Reader7) Google Maps8) Alarm9) Manage Connections (use this to turn radio off during land-line conf. calls)10) MediaI previously had only Sony Ericsson phones and got used to being able to lock/unlock the phone quickly. On the Blackberry, if you disable “Dialing from the Home Screen” (Phone > Options > General Options) then the “k” key can be used to lock the phone from the Home Screen. I enabled this and can now lock my phone by pressing Power Button – K.

    1. RAGZ

      Telenav is so cool! I love looking for free WiFi everywhere I go.

  17. stephen c

    noone has stated the safest place for the lock feature – Assign the lock to the left side button and never ass reply again!Also, when is blackberry going to fix the software bug that allows you to unlock the device by highlighting unlock and being able to press the center button?

  18. nickdavis

    Here goes.1) I echo the comment below about assigning the left side button to lock the keyboard,2) Top Apps:a) Gmail for Mobile – This has replaced BB mail for most things. GREAT app. Now, if I could only run multiple instances for different Gmail accounts.b) BB Mail – especially for SMS. However, why can’t I assign a speed dial key (remember, the BB can assign a speed dial to non-numbered keys, so there are a ton) to SMS someone, or email someone? c) SimulSays/PhoneTagd) Camerae) Google Mapsf) Calendarg) BrickBreaker (or, rather, PearlBreaker because it wears the pearl ball out so quickly)h) media player (I have a 2 gig card in for when I forget everything else).3) I personally think the BB still wins because it has a keyboard. However, my personal prediction is that the next iPhone will have a projected laser keyboard, like: http://www.virtual-laser-ke…. The technology is already in production, so why not?

    1. fredwilson

      I used to have the simulsays app but it messed up my phone so I had to takeit off

      1. Siminoff

        I did not see this until after I commented. We have a new one out that is very stabile, anyone can get it at

      2. nickdavis

        The newer versions have been far more stable. I’m having much fewer problemsnow.

        1. Siminoff

          Nick, thanks I am glad to hear that you have seen that as well. As for the link, some people said they had trouble, try the full, http://mobile.simulscribe.c

  19. brett

    long and boring

    1. fredwilson


  20. themaria

    My top apps are quite similar, except for I also use these 3 quite a lot: Viigo, Facebook and memo pad. I use the memo pad extensively to jot down notes that pop into my head at that moment, wherever I am, on just about any subject: agenda for a meeting, business idea, grocery shopping list. I also use the Facebook app quite a lot. I don’t even need to go to the Facebook on the web to check and respond to messages and wall posts. And my favorite…. Viigo! It’s a mobile RSS reader app. I love being able to catch up on my favorite blogs / articles in the subway / in line at the bank. It has a fantastic interface and updates automatically. You can program your feeds through the web interface; the only gripe is that you can’t import your feeds from your main web-based RSS reader.

    1. Mo

      Try the Newsgator BB App, I used to be on Viigo and switched to Newsgator because of the online-mobile sync functionality and all the other computer browser based management features for all the RSS feeds. Now I am on NetNewsWire on iPhone.

    2. Dan Entin

      I am also a huge fan of the Facebook and Viigo apps for the BlackBerry.mariamaria – you can import your feeds from your main web-based RSS reader into VIigo. I know I was able to do so with Bloglines. You may not be using a recent version of the app.

      1. themaria

        They allow a direct import from Bloglines, My Yahoo and Google Reader. Unfortunately they do not support Netvibes, which is what I use. As I am writing this post and looking at Viigo’s site, I now see that they allow you to import an OPML file. So I can just export my Netvibes to OPML and load it into my Viigo. Too bad I have already manually input my top 20 blogs. I kind of liked the exercise of selecting top 20 – made me be honest with myself re: what I actually read :)Yep, OPML is the solution!

  21. Kevin Way

    I have a BB 8830 and an iPhone.Having used both, I think your belief that a third party will provide the functionality and ease of use as the iPhone App Store is a bit of a dream.My BlackBerry apps are almost all running whatever version happened to be around when I installed them, because there’s no simple auto-notification and upgrade system available for BB apps, despite the market existing for quite a long time now. Heck, when I look at my minor PC apps, I see the same problem with any application that doesn’t auto-update, and there’s been a market for such intelligence on the PC side for an exceedingly long time.Beside that, even for the limited functionality of a “”-esque site, it’s very hard for a typical end-user to judge whether or not that site is in fact worthy of trust. Here’s an interesting experiment demonstrating the problem at hand: http://successfulsoftware.n…The summary of that story is that he released a renamed text-file that did nothing, under the name ‘awardmestars’ and an enormous number of download sites not only published it as an actual utility, but even went so far as to give it awards.I’ll stick with the App Store until the market has come up with a viable solution that works *today*.

  22. RAGZ

    Great post, sums up my Blackberry experience completely. My app order closely resembles yours.I do suggest that you download Yahoo’s free suite. It’s surprisingly readable, and I find it far surpasses Google’s. I’d have died long ago if it wasn’t for the GPS that comes with the phone, even though Google Maps gives much better routes.My issue with Blackberry and it’s app ecosystem is that they really “nickle and dime” you. You can’t really test any of the paid apps out there before buying them, and the few that I’ve seen aren’t worth the money people pay for them.

  23. Eric Friedman

    One thing I highly recommend is moving #12 the lock function to the left sidebar button. To do this simply go to Options>Screen/Keyboard>scroll to left side convenience key and change it to “keyboard lock”. The default is voicenote which is something I never use and I bet others to not either. The right side convenience key is of course the camera which is essential on the device. Having the lock function as a simple left button makes locking much faster and easier and frees up screen real estate.

  24. venkat

    guess I should give it a try now!————————————-Take control over red weevil and save the trees, visit now!!!——————————-

  25. vruz

    I think you are right, but that’s not the whole story to the iPhone.The iPhone provides new -still unexploited- ways of interacting with the user.The iPhone also gives developers the power of OpenGL ES graphics, with a well known API that traces back its roots to Silicon Graphics Workstations. Compared to developing apps for the Blackberry or Palm or any other mobile platform out there, developing for the iPhone using Apple’s Xcode is a breeze of fresh air. It’s really that good, these developers aren’t in it for the hype in this case.So you get new ways of interacting and new ways of displaying information, and most developers are only now starting to learn about the possibilities of the new platform.I am not too happy with the closedness of the AppStore approach, but I believe Apple will feel the heat to open themselves more when Android is finally out, and there’s some million developers out there asking for a better deal.The iPhone Is a way much bigger shift than it’s apparent right now.

  26. Andrew Warner

    You are in the minority. So am I. Most people don’t install apps evev though they can. What’s exciting about the iPhone is that it gets people to install, try and use apps.We’ve had browsers on phones for years, but most people don’t use them. Apple got people to actually use safari. They’ll do the same for apps.And if people start using apps, develops will invest time to make them.

  27. rfreeborn

    A couple of things -1 – To echo some other comments, it’s all about the folders! I have a “Google” folder with the entire Gmobile pack downloaded. I have a “Personal Tools” folder for my ESPN and Facebook links and a “Setup” folder for those core BB config things that I don’t touch on a regular basis.2 – If you love your BB but are feeling some iPhone envy, try this out:…3 – Fred, I find it interesting that you sort people into three different buckets but, in the end, your BB tosses them all into the same messaging bucket. I actually like it for that reason. It doesn’t matter if it’s a voicemail delivered as an attachment to my email, an SMS message or work email (I keep all personal email firewalled and only access via the excellent Gmail for BB client) – these are all dropped into one inbox that, when it includes all voice messaging (voicemails, missed calls) from the BB, represents what I see as the ultimate unified communications tool EVER.My quick rant for the day ;-)r.

    1. fredwilson

      RobI break out my messaging into three buckets. I split my emails and texts andBBMs into three inboxes

  28. qwang

    I’m a huge fan of disabling “dial from home screen” (you can find this option in from the dial screen). It allows you to hop between apps at lightning speeds. You may find it FAR more productive to be able to type:m for mailn for messengerb for browserr for alarm f for profilel for calendara for address bookdial key to dial…and then put the apps without shortcut keys on the home screen (SMS, gmaps)I never use the alt-tab method of switch apps anymore, instead I hit END then the letter for the app I want. Again, insanely ADD way to use a blackberry =)As for the Bb vs appstore, I really do love how “open” the blackberry platform is. Apps are installed like you would install any other desktop apps. However, have you SEEN the stuff coming out of app store? Loopt? Remote? Facebook? this stuff blows their Bb counterparts out of the water. Bb may have a bigger following of heavy data users, but iPhone has all the developer appeal–misguided as they may be.

    1. Stewart Butterfield

      How do you set the keys to apps?? I disabled dialing from the home screen, but when I hold down a key the only auto-dial choices I get are entries from the address book. I’d love to use your method tho – sounds awesome.

      1. qwang

        Don’t hold, just tap. The keys are pre-assigned. You’ll notice the letter underlined in the application name.

  29. Siminoff

    Where did SimulSays go?

  30. Stewart Butterfield

    Here’s a recommendation for the Flickr app:… (I guess RIM made this, because I don’t think we did) — I just used it for the first time and it is a lot faster than emailing, can tag, add description, etc., but best of all it handles geotagging if you have GPS in your phone (maybe by tower triangulation if not?)

    1. fredwilson

      Sweet! I am so going to get this right now.Nice to hear from you Stewart. Maybe we can grab a coffee next time I am inSF

  31. Adam

    Interesting article! I have spent a lot of time setting up my curve in a way that gives me quick access to everything. Right now, I have the full screen of icons (using the iPhone theme) with sms, email 1, email 2, email 3, ramble im, viigo rss, facebook, twitterberry, address book, media and the browser.I also have the left side key setup as opera mini, the right as camera and use the shortcut keys for lock (K) and alarm (R).That gets the job done for me.

  32. AndrewLee

    At a politics online conference, I was surprised when someone told me they HATED the OLPC because the third world already had a computer— the mobile phone.Nevertheless, I think they’re competing verticals. The iPhone is celebrated because it took the leap of not allowing a carrier to determine the apps allowed and also created a simple way to allow that ecosystem to flourish. That little leap in the mobile phone evolution (albeit, the blackberry did the same before) is just a better place for the mobile phone to evolve.

  33. user239

    i have this sense that the blackberry operating system is not prepared to run a personal computer (what handheld devices are becoming). my use of the camera seems to fill up the memory. with regularity and without warning, the device appears to hang as it deletes all past text messages and emails (rather important data if you ask me). i’ve found that if i take the battery out periodically, the memory does not overload. of course then it usually hangs on boot-up the first time i put the battery back in. i find it rather irritating and am hopeful a device makes it to market with better reliability (that I can use with T-Mobile).exiting some apps is a pain and if you leave them running they slow down the device. and why does it take more than a split-second to load the “app” for changing the ringer profile?i think facebook did a good job with its first BB app (i expect it to get better). i find GMail’s app pretty handy. I read your blog and others on NewsGator’s client app (much faster than going through a browser and offline access, sort of). the GTalk client does a better job of maintaining a connection and integrates with the device better than AIM, MSN, or favorite mobile web app: Motask is a fantastic to-do list app. no way i’m storing data on a device that’s sure to get lost.

  34. Nick Molnar

    I think the question comes down to whether or not blackberry can create a development environment as rich and simple as Apple’s. This is one area where Apple has FAR more experience than anyone else in the industry. Anyone out there worked with both?

  35. falicon

    I love peeking into Fred’s brain thanks to this blog…but what I really love is how it exposes the things people online are really interested in and passionate about!A simple post like this on how he is using his Blackberry explodes with such rich comments…just shows that everyone has at least some opinion on phones and mobile devices right now. Very interesting.

  36. Jeff Grill

    So the next logical thought would be why doesn’t your phone learn and self organize around what you use the most. Taking it a step further, why doesn’t every device do the same?

    1. fredwilson

      I was going to write that but didn’tI agree completely

  37. RacerRick

    It will be nice to see real blackberry apps start to really flow.I am so sick of downloading an app, and it turns out to just be a link to a website (ESPN you suck!).I want apps that work like blackberry’s email. Let me pre-set the information I want (headlines, scores, etc) then download that info every couple of minutes so I can check it anytime… without doing anything.

    1. Dan Entin

      This is Handmark’s Pocket Express ( does and what Viigo’s Project Tango ( will do as well when it comes out of beta.

  38. needcaffeine

    there are plenty of good app sites. added BeeJive to be all-in-one IM client, I connect w/ a lot of vendors what way. I have Gmail, AIM, MSN, Yahoo on it.I can’t live with our WorldMateLive for organizing and sheduling my trips. I have the Gold plan, which notifies me when a flight is delayed, I can lookup up alternatives with an OAS supplied support, get local weather, currency, and a world clockI have facebook & twitter installed for social network updates, and have my mobile pownce setup as my default homepageI take most of my notes, either by e-mailing one of my secondary e-mail accounts(which I also receive on this device) or using the MemoPad

  39. piontekdd

    Thanks for the top 10. I’m a recent blackberry convert (Started out with a 8830 and then upgraded to the Curve 8830 a few weeks later as it wasn’t available at the time). So far, I love it. I’ve always had issues with the iPhone and it’s touch screen. I just don’t like it. I prefer the tactile qwerty keyboard.My Top 5 (all that fits on my theme)1. Gmail (prefer this to the blackberry email client. Shows conversation style email just like email. supports gmail labels and does a better job with html-email)2. TwitterBerry (Wish it had notification/polling capabilities like Twhirl) 3 Google Talk4. yahoo! messenger5. Message logI don’t use the lock feature at all. I’ve started using the standby feature instead. keeps my display off in my pocket.

  40. salimismail

    Q Dub – rocking recommendation – I can see myself using that heavily. Stewart, have already downloaded the Flickr app – it’s great!I also use folders extensively to manage icons, use the Zen manager and for me the left button takes me to msgs and right goes to address bookBut my killer app is the T-Mobile @home service. Basically, with a Curve and T-Mobile, I pay a $9.99 monthly surcharge. This routes calls via available wifi connections without costing plan minutes. Given that I’m at a wifi connection about 80% of the time, it means essentially unlimited calling. The biggest implication is if I’m overseas, the wifi connectivity considers me domestic and I have free phone calls back home. Works fabulously and I can’t live without it.Oh, I forgot the Yahoo Onesearch. Click to hold voice-based searching – incredible voice recognition.

    1. fredwilson

      I use the tmobile @home service as wellMy home in NYC has terrible cell service but great wifi (our wifi)So I use it all the time at homeI guess that’s why they call it that

  41. pedalpete

    As a Canadian, it’s great to see so many Blackberry fans, and you can add one more to that list (me). Though I am very disappointed in the current browser on Blackberry, i’m sure they are working on getting Opera (full version) or something similar on the next device.I am quite surprised by the hype surrounding the iPhone apps. Are/were we not moving away from downloads to web apps. If you look at the most popular apps on the iPhone, is there any reason they are not web-apps?Pandora and is now an iPhone app?? only because the iPhone doesn’t support flash! was this Senor Jobs plan all along?Even on the blackberry, apps like calendar would almost be better served as a web-app so that you are always synced on multiple devices. And Google Maps is a web app which like Pandora needed a download because of the poor quality of the BlackBerry browser.Sure it’s important to have local apps, but I think local mobile apps is a short-term geek fest until mobile browsers can match the quality of mobile Safari (iPhone), but with flash/silverlight, etc.

  42. Bill Allman

    Great post…i too use my berry much the same way — and in the same order — as you do.Though for me, communication channels break down by age/generation: Phone for my mom, Outlook email for my colleagues, gmail for friends, SMS for my kids, Twitter DM for the Digerati gang.As for browsing on the Web, i swear i wind up reading most of the NYTimes every morning on their mobile page — it’s a terrific application. And as to Google maps, it’s indispensable on the road — i once used the “aerial photo” setting to see from space which way a golf hole doglegged when i was on vacation at an unfamiliar course.It is very much my 2nd computer, and after hours or on the train, my primary one. (I also use it as a modem for my laptop when i can’t get wifi)One tip: I converted the side button to “lock” so that all I have to do is manually push a button to lock. Way useful to avoid randomly calling folks.

  43. Dan Entin

    Great post and love all the comments. I could write a novel-length response but will focus on something not yet covered:Pinger – visual voicemail for the rest of us! Pinger is a voice messaging service that replaces your cell-phone voicemail by forwarding your cell phone voicemail to Pinger. Beyond the shorter message instructions and cool web-tools Pinger gives you there is a very basic BlackBerry app which essentially gives you the same kind of visual voicemail that the iPhone made a big deal out of. You can see a list of your voicemails by caller chronologically and click to listen them in whatever sequence you want. Highly recommend!

    1. user239

      I won’t try Pinger because I don’t want to share my phone number just to try the app/service. There is a browser on my device. There’s no need to SMS me a link. Services that demand contact information promote habits that spammers take advantage of to collect contact information.

      1. Dan Entin

        Most apps have OTA download pages but in this case you can’t actually try out the app without setting up the service first – which requires that you give them your phone number anyway.

  44. Mrinal

    Fred – you should check out Viigo for a Feed Reader. Syncs with G Reader account.

  45. J.P. Paquette

    The Iphone is a toy compared to the lackberry. Had one for two weeks and I am back to Blackberry.

  46. Robi Ganguly

    Opera Mini IS much better. But I can’t figure out for the life of me how to get it to open as the default browser when I click on links. Has anyone figured out how to do this?

  47. Shipcharter

    I think most of us here use our blackberry as a data device.The sad thing about this is that I, (not sure about the rest) have to carry a second device as my phone device. Likely this is due to the plans available in my part of the world whereby you can get unlimited data but well they charge like mad for voice.Opera Mini should be the default browser if you ask me, but like Rganguly47 says, I can’t seem to figure out how to make it default