Blackberry Gets Some Social Media Mojo

Bberry twitter  I've been carrying around two phones for most of this year, my trusty Blackberry and the Google phone. I use the blackberry for voice, text, and email and the Google phone for web, maps, and apps. I'm getting pretty good at typing on a touch screen but I still cannot type a three or four paragraph email easily on the Google phone and until I can, I'm not walking away from the Blackberry.

I do occasionally use the Blackberry for mobile apps and my two favorite Blackberry apps are SocialScope and Foursquare. I've been using both of these apps since they were in alpha and they have improved a lot over the past six months. They are now rock solid.

This week The Gotham Gal got a new Blackberry, the 9700, which is what I use. It's a mighty fine phone. This morning I installed the Blackberry App World on her phone (it's crazy that it does not come pre-installed by T-Mobile). Then I installed Foursquare and the new Blackberry Twitter app. You'll find the new Twitter app in the Test Center category in App World.

After I did the install, I played around a bit with her Twitter and Foursquare apps. It occurred to me that with the arrival of rock solid apps like the new Twitter app, Foursquare, and SocialScope (which aggregates all of these services into one app), the Blackberry has become a damn good mobile social media device. The only thing that it is missing is a good Facebook app. The current one is not great.

Blackberry has a bunch of catching up to do to stay relevant and one important thing is getting really great social media apps on its platform. My sense from this morning's experience is that they are getting there. And not a moment to soon.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Jevon

    I get a lot of flack for using a BB (I have the 9700 as well — love it), but I actually use it because all I do is messaging+social on my phone, I do very little web browsing at all.The GTalk app on Blackberry is amazing, so is the new twitter app (with push replies), and foursquare is great now as well.Add on to that the unified inbox includes all of those apps (not just email), and it is perfect for me. Where the iphone is application oriented, the blackberry is message oriented. It makes for a very different experience.The battery life on my 9700 has been great as well.

    1. andyswan

      Battery life is such a key element. After a couple of foolish years on iphones and palm pre, it’s so liberating to be able to go a full day (and way more) without charge-induced panic setting in.

      1. Rob K

        Battery life is key. Apple better get its act together on that. I’m ready to switch back.

  2. Morgan Warstler

    Eventually HTC will glue a blackberry experience on the back of an android full screen for the high end customer.

    1. ShanaC

      It’s hard because of bulk factor. Where do you put the keyboard and the screen and keep it thin?

      1. kidmercury

        i’m probably niche but i’ll take a bit of bulk to get the extra functionality.

        1. ShanaC

          I doubt you are the only one, it is a matter of how much bulk before you can’t take the phone somewhere/it is not longer useable. Also the keyboard has to be designed around how you hold phones in your hand. Which may not be immediately compatible with large screens…it’s a huge problem.

      2. Morgan Warstler

        I see it as a KVM switch – you just flip the phone over and the other screen lights up. both phones use same chips.

        1. ShanaC

          while that could work- think Tereza’s kids, and think me on a klutzy day. Plus the screens are an expense. Plus, a number of people have mentioned to me for a desire for simply designed phones which have the screens covered (they worry that the phones won’t lock and will auto-dial) This would be a super-user’s phones, to be sure, and definitely more delicate.It could definitely work though. it just is a matter of durability and price point for those who can pay. It won’t be as big of a market as some of the more traditional designs. One of the things I have thought about though was a touch screen with an internal screen and keyboard internally. Same formfactor/layout as the blackberry- so the touchscreen would be a protector screen, in some ways.

    2. kidmercury

      definitely. the dream.

  3. andyswan

    By the way….I take back, in full, my previous commentary exploiting the virtues of the Palm Pre.The affair was short lived. And now, I’m back to my one true love, the blackberry.I’d like to apologize to my sponsors, my friends, but mostly my blackberry. What I did was wrong, but I’m determined not to let it define who I am or who I become.Thank you for your continued support through this difficult process.

    1. fredwilson

      very funny andy

    2. Tereza

      Andy, I am more prone to be inquisitive to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I wanna find out what your feelings are…and did you learn anything?

      1. Tereza

        that’s the cut-and-paste from Earle Woods.

      2. Rob K


    3. CJ

      The Palm Pre is awesome, even better if you overclock it. The battery life started off pretty bad but they’ve addressed it and I can get a day and a half out of it now, sometimes two (but that’s rare). It’s still the best phone at multitasking and it’s just about as open as Android in that they have a very active homebrew community that have extended the device way beyond what Palm has done. Still, before the OC I was annoyed by the sluggishness of it on occasion, now that I have it running at 800mhz rather than the stock 500 it zips through life and I’m in lust again.

    4. Aaron Klein

      Andy, I almost did the same thing but resisted temptation and stayed true to the BlackBerry, this time the 9700 again. So happy I did so.

    5. ShanaC

      May I ask what cured the love potion?

  4. rohun

    And how many times did you have to reboot the phone to get those apps installed? BB has the worst app consumer experience… I hate: (1) no appstore pre-loaded, (2) having to accept some cryptic security settings when some apps install, (3) having to reboot and wait FOREVER for the damn thing to start again.

    1. fredwilson

      none!i agree with you that installing apps on the bberry has been horriblei wrote a post about that last december…<http:“” a_vc=”” 2009=”” 12=”” blackberry-apps.html=””>but something haschanged for the better. i did three installs on my wife’s phone, app world,twitter, and foursquarei had none of the annoying popups and i did not have to do a single rebootthe install experience through the app store is terrifici am impressed

      1. Fernando Gutierrez

        The biggest problem for me isn’t rebooting after installs because you don’t do many. What I think they need to improve is the usage of memory by apps. I’m still on the 9000, so this may have changed in the 9700, but I have to reboot every couple of days because it turns very slow when I open and close apps frequently. Anyway, I’m a BB fan and I don’t see any Android or Iphone yet that make me think seriously on quitting.

    2. Tereza

      I am shocked BB can’t get out of their own way on that.Head-scratching.

  5. RacerRick

    By my count, this is the 5th post of the week… ie 1 per day.

    1. fredwilson

      you caught me rickfunny thing is some people are still referring to my decision to post everyother day like it was real

      1. RacerRick

        You could go every other other day?

        1. paramendra

          LMAO —- Obviously, Rick, Fred Wilson is not a man of his words. Thanks for the continued entertainment. Why do we have to limit it to one day?

      2. Joe Siewert

        It was posted April 1st after all.

      3. Ro Gupta

        Daniel was one of those people, just a couple days ago.Made to sure to make him feel gullible and foolish.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      He’s doing 1 week on, 1 week off.

  6. onsip

    We were just debating this in a morning meeting and all have a sense that the future of Blackberry doesn’t look great. The apps and software are so far behind. Rohun lays it out well:1) no appstore pre-loaded2) having to accept some cryptic security settings when some apps install3) having to reboot and wait FOREVER for the damn thing to start again

    1. Joe Siewert

      Sounds like the instant drawback is the Blackberry platform lacks instant utility/usability. Most users don’t want to/have the patience to configure app stores, navigate difficult security settings, etc.

  7. Tereza

    It’s the BB/Facebook app gap that surprises me the most.Are these guys not showing up to work, or what?

  8. ShanaC

    I’m actually not so in love with Social Scope- I have an older model blackberry and it is crash central (they did warn me, but alas…I wonder when that will be resolved) I do love battery life however. And really being able to type….

  9. K H

    Unfortunately, you can not edit Re-tweets, and that is a deal breaker for me.

  10. paramendra

    So you are not an iPhone person? Pretty cool actually. There is something to be said about openness. But you do do Macbook Air, though there are some decent three pound Dell and Toshiba machines, among others. And you opted for Nexus One, skipped the Droid. That is a statement. Would love a post on the Nexus One from you. Which network do you use? How good is it? Are there any great apps on the iPhone you have heard of that don’t exist yet on the Android platform? I doubt it, but just asking.

  11. maxkalehoff

    We have a couple test Droids in my home, but I still carry around a Blackberry Curve. It’s not sexy, but there are three critical attributes: it’s highly rugged, it simply works and it’s affordable/replaceable. (It’s a burden when your phone is a valuable fashion accessory, especially if you’re an active person.) Blackberry does voice, instant contact database, and texting very well, and it’s small. If it can get a few really solid apps — even just a few — then it will have a sustainable future. Btw, ruggedness is key. One of our test droids screens shattered, just like all the iPhones do.

    1. CJ

      The first iPhone was built like a tank, but it’s slow (EDGE). I love my BB, it can’t be beat if you’re a heavy email user. The levels of customization available haven’t been duplicated by any other platform. With my BB I can set up individual alerts per email sender, forward emails without downloading them to my phone first, get all of my messages(email/text/im) in one inbox at a glance(Palm Pre does this one better) and I get a physical keyboard, arguably the best in the business. I admit that I’d probably be hesitant to carry it as my main phone if I wasn’t a heavy email user but for my work mobile email device it can’t be replaced.

  12. sivanm

    After fooling around with a G1 and Pre I feel liberated by the 9700. The speed, ease of typing and battery life are great. Communication is still the most important aspect.Agree on the app installation process. Their dev podcasts indicate that they are aware of issues but legacy carrier relationships and OS behavior stand in the way. I’m looking forward to some news in this month’s WES conference.

  13. Aaron Klein

    Very good point.I find the Facebook app to be okay on BlackBerry, with one exception – and it’s not the app’s fault. BlackBerry engineered it to intercept the Facebook e-mail notifications and weave them into the app. The problem I’m having is that Facebook isn’t sending the notifications consistently. My wife is having the same experience on Facebook.So you end up with an app that only gets half of the data it should be getting. And it’s not even BlackBerry’s fault, per se.

  14. Pete

    I like UberTwitter on my 9700. It has a nice interface and snappy performance.

    1. rohun

      I also use UberTwitter. I find it to be the best/most stable Twitter app I’ve used on BB to-date.

  15. The Central Scrutinizer

    I use all platforms apart from Palm, and I actually find 4sq easier and faster to use on the BB than it is on the iPhone

  16. Chris Phenner

    We have a music app available across seven BlackBerry models, and have seen vast improvements in first-time user experiences as OS 4.x has moved to 5.0. My sense of the difference between Fred’s December experience/post and his experience this week is that Gotham Gal’s 9700 is running 5.0, which removes a lot of the crunk in first-time installs and permission dialogs.RIM is touting a ‘Super App’ concept that to date it has only talked about at Mobile World Congress (Feb) and a couple developer-facing Webinars, but this concept encourages app developers to ‘make super’ their apps by taking advantage of the unique hooks and native apps to the platform. Deeper integrations with, tighter integrations with BBM, calendar and other messaging are examples of this. If RIM brings fun content and better experiences that integrate with the apps you *really* rely on with a BlackBerry (read: mail/BBM/calendar), they have a shot of holding onto users like myself who cherish the hard keyboard.Keep an eye on ‘Super Apps’ as RIM takes this wider. I have no inside info, but RIM’s WES conference happens in Orlando April 27th – 29th, so they might do news.And search ‘Thumbplay’ in App World and check out our app.Almost made it out of this post without a plug, alas.

    1. Prakash

      Will check out about ‘Make super’ – sounds interesting.However, I think BB would get more cool, social and funs apps only if it makes it easy for developers to develop on the platform. It still continues to be a pain to develop on their platform when you compare it to the IPhone and the Android.

  17. Mihai Badoiu

    On my blackberry I used to use Google Maps, Gmail, calendar, etc sparingly. These apps have been surpassed by the iPhone and Android versions. These apps have been there for a while and there were lots of Blackberry handsets. (it was non-trivial to install them) I think there are 2 main issues: – blackberry app world came late – the screen is too small and most phones don’t have a touch screen. Browsing the internet is such a pain.Do you have any traffic statistics to get an idea on how badly blackberry is doing?

  18. Fernando Gutierrez

    For Twitter I prefer Seesmic better than the new BB app. It quite solid and lets me do everything I think of doing.

    1. Daniel Kligerman

      Agreed – Seesmic seems much snappier in terms of scrolling through large quantities of tweets quickly. The new BB Twitter app seems to have many more features, so I may use both for a while and see what happens.One major missing feature with the Seesmic client is the ability to follow someone whose tweet was re-tweeted to you. You can do that by going to their timeline, then opening one of their tweets, then choosing follow, but why the need for so many steps?

  19. sivanm

    Sadly posting to Disqus comments is nearly impossible on a BlackBerry, I had to try a few times from Opera Mini, the native browser didn’t even show the comments.I’m fairly confident the browser woes will be resolved soon. The long term problem for RIM is its relationship with carriers. It has long been a top-down strategy: sell the devices through carriers and corporations, while Apple subverted the business by getting consumers to demand the devices from carriers and their employers.Now RIM is the only manufacturer still bending to carrier demands and hurting itself by not shipping its own App World to its users. Listening to RIM’s public comments, one gets the impression that this subservience to carriers will continue for some time.

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      It’s true you can’t see the comments on the browser, but you can reply better with the keyboard from the email app! (that’s what I’m doing right now)

      1. ShanaC

        Wait, how do you see the entire blog though

        1. Fernando Gutierrez

          I don’t. I usually read the posts and comments in my inbox. Like comments are always a lot in this blog I usually search for a word in the title of the post + disqus and read them in batches. The bad thing is that you don’t get all the conversation when there are replies (but that’s something with Disqus email notifications, and I think that they are working on it), but most times it’s enough to keep up to date and make a good use of dead time.

  20. Nate

    I think it’s a mistake to optimize for email typing at the expense of the far superior apps and browser on iPhone and Android.YMMV, but what’s essential on a smartphone is to have “good enough” typing, while having absolutely awesome apps, mobile internet, touch OS, and usability.

    1. sivanm

      It’s not optimized for typing, it’s just where it’s coming from. These were originally pager-like email devices. It remains to be seen how well they manage to grow the platform.That said, I’d place communication above all else. I noticed that the even the slightest hassles discourage typing, and I want to write my thoughts down, fire off a quick email and not be discouraged and keep it in my head instead.

      1. Nate

        So is it optimized for typing or not?I agree that communication is key, but what kind of communication? I almost never use voice, and any SMS, emails, or notes I jot down are about the length of a tweet.To me it’s far more important to have really great apps overall device UX, than it is to be able to send emails.I think what’s going on is that long time Blackberry users reached a “local maximum” and it’s too painful to give up their BB touch-type muscle memory in order to reach the higher maximum offered by handheld touch-only computers.

        1. sivanm

          I’m actually fairly new to BB, the 9700 is my first, I’m not a crusty BB owner with muscle memory. I owned Palm OS devices, a G1 and a Pre before.It’s hard to describe but the BB is very fluid and effortless to communicate with. It’s the ease of typing, spare UI that has no distracting animations and just works quickly. It can keep up with me, that’s the best way I can put it.And it has great battery life, again something that just frees you to use it as much as you want.

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      Like you say, depends on your mileage. I feel tempted by some Android phones but I still write dozens of emails and IMs everyday (call me old fashioned!) and my BB helps a lot with that. I tried briefly with an Iphone and I realized that I waited to be in a computer to reply because it was less easy.I’d love to have more apps (although not that many), but for me email is still king. Also, the browser in the latest BBs is not that bad… and if the other’s were so good they would not need apps.

  21. Jan Renner

    I picked up the 9700 a few weeks ago. Changed my perception of BB. Still feeling drawn to the iPhone, but this is keeping me at bay. Interestingly, never downloaded BB App World. Poor marketing and communication from BB and carriers. Just downloaded – still sparse – but Twitter App is great. Thanks for heads up.

  22. Nate Jones

    I was a blackberry user from 2006 until Dec 09 when I switched to the iphone. I originally didn’t want to give up my bberry because of the keyboard. However, I needed to switch because some of our clients are having apps developed for them on the iphone and I needed to be more familiar with the iphone and how apps work on the device. As well, I oversee the social media accounts for a bunch of NBA players, and it seemed much easier to do on the iphone. My email fears have totally been erased, as I now write tons of emails daily on the iphone via a two thumb typing style. My hand doesn’t get the same tired feeling when I type on an iphone as I did when i typed on my old blackberries. I think if you play with touch long enough, drafting emails just becomes easier and easier. Personally, my only real problem with the iphone has been the lack of multitasking. But now that’s been solved with the new OS.

  23. kcbits

    Seriously considering switching to BB after three years w/ an iPhone.

  24. jkings

    everyone’s covered most of pros/cons of blackberry here in the comments, but as a longtime bb owner (curve(s), bold, storm2, tour), i’ll throw out one more big con: RIM is slowly evolving, not innovating in exciting ways. every new handset is a slightly updated iteration of those before it, and each new OS seems to wow only those who appreciate the esoteric aspects of the platform. the look of the UI is tired, and the handsets are most certainly tired.i’m not knocking the utility of bb overall, but i think the bb experience is just getting…boring.

  25. lorenzo viscanti

    I’m still waiting for a decent FB application for my google phone. the phone itself is great but I do miss FB for the iPhone…