I admit to being a purist. I prefer native apps to Android ports. Built for BlackBerry apps give me the best user experience on my Z30, but apps that have been ported into BlackBerry world are a close second. Android apps? I was reluctant to use them at first, worried about battery drain or security loopholes, but I’ve mellowed out a bit with time. As a rule, I don’t download an Android app if there is a BlackBerry version available. I have the Amazon app store installed on my phone, and it’s pretty nice, if rarely used. There are, however, three Android apps that I am unwilling to live without: Waze, the Starbucks app, and Netflix. [Read more…]
I think as a society we focus too much on the negative and not enough on the positive. This applies to BlackBerry too. We are all too eager to jump all over the company for a perceived misstep but rarely do we stand back and thank the company and their employees for all of their hard work and dedication to the principles that make BlackBerry the great company that it is.
Today BlackBerry rolled out Channels for BlackBerry Messenger. BlackBerry could have done what other companies have done and said “screw legacy users, if they want Channels, they should upgrade to a newer device”. The fact that they didn’t says a lot about the corporate culture at BlackBerry. Instead of releasing Channels for the new, flashy BB10 operating system and leaving legacy device users hanging, BlackBerry employees working on channels worked long days, nights, and even weekends in order to roll out Channels to everyone at the same time. To me that says that BlackBerry values all of its customers and wants to bring them all the best experience. Yes there was an error in the app world description of channels where it said that OS 10.2 (which at this time is still unavailable from US carriers) was required to load the Channels instead of requiring BBM 10.2. To their credit, within 20 minutes of learning of the problem, the problem was fixed. No company is perfect, mistakes will be made, but the speed with which the mistake was corrected shows that Blackberry cares about their customers. Would BlackBerry like everyone to upgrade to the newest devices? Of course they would. (If you’re reading this and are on the fence about upgrading to BlackBerry 10 – do it! It’s an amazing operating system with both touchscreen and keyboard models.) But BlackBerry also respects their customer base enough to realize that not everyone can afford to upgrade, and that even those who haven’t upgraded to a new device or operating system deserve the best possible mobile computing experience. For that I give a heartfelt thank you.
Thank you BlackBerry for caring about all of your customers and for providing user experience that shows that your customers are more than just faceless sources of revenue. The next time someone questions my loyalty to BlackBerry, I will direct them to this post.
P.S. If you’re an Android or iPhone user, you can still get the best messaging system on the planet by heading to bbm.com, Channels isn’t available for Android and iPhone yet but will be released in the coming months. In the meantime, enjoy the awesomeness that is BBM! (#BBM4All on Twitter).
Blaq for BlackBerry 10
When I said that I would blog about Blaq later, I didn’t think it would be later today. I am at BlackBerry Live in Orlando next week and I’m not bringing my laptop so I figured I should probably write the review sooner rather than later.
From day 1 with my Z10, I was frustrated by the native Twitter client (Twitter for BlackBerry). I realize that it is as functional as Twitter for Android and Twitter for iOS, but I’ve been spoiled with Twitter for BlackBerry 7. I expected the Twitter client on the BlackBerry 10 devices to be just as functional, and when it wasn’t I was disappointed. I tried a number of other Twitter clients in the first two months I had my Z10: Tweetings, Neatly, RewitQ, and Twitter for BlackBerry 10. Each of them had some advantages but they were either too slow, too frustrating to use, or missing key features (like lists).
As many of you know, I’m a Twitter junkie. I need a fairly robust application to use on a daily basis. One of my favourite features on Twitter is the ability to sort your followers into lists and follow those lists. I follow over 1600 people on twitter, and, though I do Twitter purges on a regular basis where I unfollow accounts that are no longer relevant to me, it can still be a lot to handle. Lists allow me sort the people I follow into groups such as “Formula 1 fans”, “CFL” , and “Journalists” and only follow those streams when I’m feeling overwhelmed. For example, Monday May 6th was the CFL draft and though I love all my tweeps, I was trying to keep up with the draft picks as they happened. I opened Twitter on my laptop, went to lists, and selected my football list. Everything else in my stream disappeared and I could pretend that the world outside of football had melted away for awhile. None of the apps I had on my Z10 before Blaq allowed me to follow lists easily.
Aside from Lists, the other features that I want in a Twitter application are, in order of importance to me:
- Multiple Account Support (preferably 3)
- The ability to quote Tweets when retweeting
- The ability to Mute hashtags (Sometimes, I just don’t want to hear about #PeopleIWantToPunch)
- Real time refresh rate.
It’s not a huge or particularly demanding list, yet until Blaq was released no single Twitter application for BlackBerry 10 had all the features I wanted. Right now Blaq only allows you to have 2 accounts but I’ve heard that support for 3 is coming and I still have the other applications so the accounts I use less frequently are set up on those.
Blaq is relatively easy to use. When you first download it, you need to authorize it to access your twitter account, this is pretty standard. Once you’ve done this the screen will pull in your account and change to the main screen. The main screen looks like this:
The green bar at the top is called the timeline progress bar and fills up as you get closer to the newest tweets in your stream. The clock on the green bar shows the time of the tweet you’re on while the clock in the top right shows the current time.
From the main screen, it takes a quick swipe to navigate within the app. Swiping right gets you the most options:
To make it easier to understand what each of these options are, I’ve numbered them.
- Mute: Allows you to mute a person or a hashtag. This can be helpful if there is a twitter party going on and you’re not participating. Selecting this option and then “add mute” on the next screen brings up a page where you can enter your criteria for what you want muted. You can also un-mute from this screen.
- Search: Lets you search Twitter for a username or hashtag. Blaq imports saved searches but you can delete them at any time.
- Me: takes you to your profile page. You can see your followers, who is following you, how many tweets you’ve tweeted, and lots of other fun stuff.
- Favourites: When you favourite a tweet, they are marked with a star. You can find them again later by selecting this option.
- Lists – All of your twitter lists are here. Currently, you can’t edit lists from Blaq but if that changes, I will let you know!
- Retweets – These are tweets of yours that have been retweeted.
- Direct Messages – you can read and compose direct messages from here.
- Mentions – these are all of your @ replies.
- Home – this takes you back to your whole twitter feed.
- Compose – Tap this to compose a new tweet.
When you swipe down from the top of the screen, you get a much smaller menu: Accounts lets you add another account or switch between accounts, while Settings allows you to change the font size, set the refresh rate while the app is inactive, and access the tutorial again by selecting Help.
Finally, swiping left allows you to access options directly related to the tweet you are viewing. This is the action that is the least intuitive in Blaq. To access this menu, touch a tweet and then pull left. While holding the menu open, pull the list up or down to access the different options.
- Allows you to reply to the tweet.
- Allows you to retweet the tweet to your followers. (By default the app will confirm that this is an action you want to do)
- Marks the tweet as a favourite (again, the default is set to confirm that you want to favourite the tweet)
- Options. If the tweet is one that you sent, you can delete it from here.
Earlier, I mentioned that one of my “must have” features in a twitter app is the ability to quote tweets. You need to select the tweet by tapping it so that it opens up in its own screen. When the tweet is isolated, touch and hold the retweet button (Circled in red below), and select the Middle option “Quote Retweet”.
Touching and holding the retweet button brings up 3 menus on the right:
- Classic retweet – a nice and simple way to retweet
- Quote – puts the item you are retweeting in quotes – useful if you’re going to modify the tweet in any way.
- Retweet via – a type of retweet I’m beginning to use a lot more often – great for websites – takes the text of the tweet and then at the end puts (via @username). It’s a stylistic choice but one that I quite enjoy.
One last thing about Blaq. By default, Blaq connects itself to BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). You get an option on every tweet and retweet to send the message as your BBM status or share it with BBM contacts. I don’t like that option, and so I turned it off. To do this is a little tricky though. You need to go to the Settings menu on your BlackBerry (it looks like a cog) –> Security and Privacy –>Application Permissions –>Blaq and switch “Connect to BBM” to off.
In a nutshell, that’s Blaq for BlackBerry 10. Have you tried Blaq for BlackBerry 10 yet? What do you think of it?
She’s Connected and my BlackBerry
You know what I absolutely love hearing when showing off my Bold 9900? “Wow, I didn’t know a BlackBerry could do THAT“. I heard that a lot this weekend at the She’s Connected Conference in Toronto. Mostly it was the simple things like the fact that managing multiple accounts in the Native Twitter Application is so easy. Or that I could remote control my PlayBook from my Bold 9900 (to be honest, that was me showing off because I had the bluetooth keyboard for the PlayBook and was perfectly capable of typing on that but I like the wow factor of the remote control). I loved meeting so many fellow BlackBerry devotees and being able to help them use their devices more easily. It’s not rocket science but there are tips and tricks that will enhance your experience as a member of Team BlackBerry.
The one question everyone seemed to ask me was if I was excited about the upcoming release of the BlackBerry 10 devices and operating system. The answer to that was an unequivocal YES! I am very excited about BlackBerry 10 and can’t wait until it is released! I still don’t know how I’m going to get a BlackBerry 10 device into my hot little hands but rest assured, it will be done. I have friends who are developers for BlackBerry and their excitement at what the BB10 OS can do has rubbed off on me. I truly believe that there is a core market of BlackBerry users who may have switched to another platform who are waiting for an excuse to come back to the BlackBerry fold. I believe that the BlackBerry 10 Operating System will be the thing to bring them back. I spoke to quite a few people who either had been BlackBerry users in the past or who were simply curious about the new product launch. A number of them were at the end of their cell phone contracts and were eligible for a new device, either now or at the beginning of the year. After chatting with me, many of them are waiting to see what BlackBerry 10 has to offer before deciding what phone to get. I wasn’t out to strong arm people into becoming members of Team BlackBerry but I wanted people to give it a chance.
BlackBerry isn’t for everyone. If you want a smartphone to game on, then this isn’t the right solution for you. However, if you want your phone to work FOR you, and WITH you then you need to consider BlackBerry. I primarily use my BlackBerry for social media, emails, as a gps, as a camera, and *gasp* to make and receive phone calls Yes I have a number of very entertaining apps and games, but they’re not the reason I chose my BlackBerry. I have far more games on my 64 gb PlayBook.
Not once all conference did i wish I had a different phone. My Bold 9900 had no issues connecting to the wifi, releasing the cached wifi info page so I could log in again on the second day, or with maintaining a battery charge throughout the conference. I don’t want to have to carry around a charger for my phone because it won’t last 10 hours. I was having too much fun trying to meet up with twitter friends to be hunting for somewhere to plug in my phone.
Why my loyalty isn’t going anywhere
In case you couldn’t tell from the title of my blog, I’m a BlackBerry fan. I have tried iphones and Androids and while they were a lot of fun, my infatuation usually only lasted a month or two. I’ve had my Bold 9900 for a year now. A year of bad press for Research In Motion and of people constantly asking me why I would want to jump on board a sinking ship. The answer is simple: I don’t believe that the ship is sinking. I LOVE the functionality of my BlackBerry Bold 9900 and am very excited by what I’ve been hearing about BlackBerry 10. My Bold 9900 allows me to work from the dock, at a football game, or from my bedroom. Documents To Go allows me to edit word and excel documents from my BlackBerry without turning on my laptop or PlayBook. BlackBerry Messenger (which despite some comments I’ve heard on Twitter is not going anywhere) helps me keep in touch with friends and family.
I have a bunch of amazing apps on my BlackBerry Bold 9900 and on my PlayBook. To all those who say that BlackBerry doesn’t have a wide selection of apps, I ask: Have you been to App World lately? The app that I fell in love with most recently is BlackBerry Traffic. I drive into Toronto a few times a month, and there’s nothing I like less than being stuck in traffic because I don’t know the alternate routes. Now I have an app that not only gives me my ETA based on current traffic conditions but it also gives me an alternate route in case I can’t take the traffic jams anymore. How awesome is that? The app gives you turn by turn directions either through your bluetooth headset or through the speaker on the BlackBerry. You can even set it up to go through your car’s audio system (though I haven’t done this yet). I learned about this awesome app from my friend Nick who used it to get us to the Canadian National Exhibition on Sunday despite some fairly major construction on the 401. Yes we still ended up stuck in traffic but we knew how long we would be in that traffic and that (surprise!) there wasn’t any traffic turning into the underground parking at the Direct Energy Centre.
The app is updated in real time by other users who are also running it. So if I leave from the cottage 30 minutes ahead of Dad and we’re both running it, he gets updated if I slow down for an extended period of time.
If I’m going home to visit my parents, I have a plethora of routes I can choose from. BlackBerry Traffic makes it easy to pick the right one. I simply select my destination and choose the route that’s quickest.
In this case I’d pick the 2nd one because it doesn’t take me on the 407. The green sections indicate good traffic flow, the yellow indicates slower than normal flow, and the red sections mean traffic is very slow.
You can click on a route and it will show you road by road how the traffic is:
I’m going to test this app out more thoroughly over the Labour Day weekend when I’ll be doing a lot of driving, some of it to very unfamiliar places. So far it’s the best traffic app I’ve seen for ANY device.