Once in awhile the universe surprises you with something so wonderful, there are no words for it. Then again, I make my living with words so I’m going to find them. I belong to some fantastic groups on BlackBerry Messenger (BBM). One of them, Team Z30 is a group of people from around the world who chat about pretty much everything. Yes, we are all using BlackBerry devices but we talk about our regular lives as often as we do about devices and upgrades and technological stuff. The members of the group have become like family to me – I worry about them when they’re going through stuff, I enjoy hearing how their day is going, and occasionally, I want to give some of them a good swift kick in the rear.
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?
I’m very excited to be going back to the She’s Connected Conference this year. Last year I had a great time meeting new people and learning a lot about blogs, brands and how the two can work together. The only thing I really didn’t like about the experience was lugging my laptop around to take notes on. This year I’m solving that problem by borrowing a BlackBerry PlayBook Keyboard Case from a friend to test it out during the conference. If I like it, I may just have to find a way to purchase one. My BlackBerry PlayBook already goes pretty much everywhere I do, so it makes sense to use it at the conference. I will, of course, also be taking my BlackBerry Bold 9900. Not only can I use the BlackBerry Bridge and connect my tablet to my phone, but I can use my BlackBerry PlayBook charger to charge everything. I love the way it looks like a little netbook but one that has a ton of great apps on it.
Yes I realize I’m a little insane to be going to a conference about blogging and social media and not taking my laptop. I still love my laptop (though at 7 years old it’s on its last legs) but I don’t like lugging it around and constantly worrying about it being stolen. With the keyboard, I have everything I need to make my BlackBerry PlayBook into a mini laptop for the 2 days I’ll need it. I covered the Grey Cup in 2011 without taking my laptop (again it was a weight / space / afraid it would get broken issue) and didn’t really miss it and won’t be borrowing the digital audio recorder again since the recording on my PlayBook is actually better quality and easier to upload. One thing I want to try to find before I leave for the conference is a neoprene sleeve so the case doesn’t get scratched when I toss it in my bag. I got a neoprene case with the PlayBook but it’s too small to fit the PlayBook and case.
I’m also going to be wearing a BlackBerry shirt to the conference on Friday. I have promised several people that I’d help set up their BlackBerry devices to do what they needed them to do and I figure it’s best if they can find me. 🙂 While I don’t work for Research In Motion (though I would love to work for such a great company whose products I love and use daily), I have spent a lot of time with my BlackBerry Bold 9900, my friends’ BlackBerries, and I’ve got a pretty good grasp of what’s going on with them. If I should happen to run into a problem that I can’t fix, I also know that help is only a BBM message away. If you’re attending the She’s Connected Conference and want me to show you how either my Bold 9900 or my PlayBook / PlayBook with keyboard work just ask! I’m always happy to talk mobile devices!
Why I’m Retiring the GPS
I don’t actually have a GPS but my parents do, as do a lot of my friends, so when I’m going somewhere where there’s a good possibility of my getting horribly, horribly lost (*cough* Hamilton *cough*) I borrow someone’s GPS to ensure I make it back home. I’ve managed to make out decently well with borrowed GPS units in the past but they’re bulky and I can’t leave it in the car for fear of it being stolen . All that is a thing of the past now that I have discovered the wonder that is BlackBerry Traffic. BlackBerry Traffic is a free app that you can download from BlackBerry App World and in my opinion, it’s better than a GPS and it’s on something you’re probably bringing with you anyway – your BlackBerry!
Once downloaded, BlackBerry Traffic appears as an icon on your homescreen. It’s pretty easy to find – it’s the one that looks like traffic lights
Now I’m a huge fan of putting things in folders on the BlackBerry, but I leave BlackBerry Traffic out on my homescreen because I use it pretty much daily.
Once you start up BlackBerry Traffic, you can set up addresses for “Home” and “Work”. You can also add an address to the “My Places” section if you know the address you’re looking for, or you can search for one you don’t know.
Once you choose your destination, the app does a search based on current traffic conditions and gives you two options. You select the one you want to take, and you get step by step voice instructions either through your bluetooth headset or through the speaker on your BlackBerry to where you’re going. It gives plenty of notice for upcoming turns, allowing you to change lanes if necessary. It’s best to set your destination before you go because otherwise your attention won’t be on driving and the app won’t be hands free. (I have, when needed, pulled over to the shoulder to revise a route.)
I have a very bad habit of not being able to find my way to or from Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton. Every time I’ve gone there I’ve been lost. Except this year. The difference? BlackBerry Traffic. Before I left, I did a search for Ivor Wynne Stadium and chose which of the 2 routes presented I wanted to take.
The one I chose, ended up being great. Note that BlackBerry Traffic gives you an estimated time of arrival – in this case about 30 minutes early but I was sure I would need that time to get myself un-lost.
The yellow exclamation point was notifying me about an accident about 9 km along the QEW – as it turned out, the accident was cleared by the time I reached that point but it was great to be prepared for a bit of a delay there.
I got to the stadium about 30 minutes early (first time ever!) The game went well, and then when I got back to my car, I simply turned BlackBerry Traffic back on and chose “Home” as my destination.
I got home in under an hour (a first), and with no stress. It was great. It was after that day that BlackBerry Traffic became my favourite app. It’s helped me avoid long weekend traffic on highway 400 to cottage country, and accidents on the 401 going to Toronto. It isn’t the app i use the most (that would be either BlackBerry Messenger or Twitter) but it’s the one I’d miss the most if it was gone! One word of caution is that if you leave it running, it does chew through battery. Once you get to your destination, you should exit the app to conserve battery.
Have you tried BlackBerry Traffic?
Near Field Communication
One of the features of my BlackBerry Bold 9900 that I hadn’t explored until recently was the ability to use Near Field Communication or NFC. NFC is used with BlackBerry Tag – it allows you to share apps, files, video, music, voice notes, pictures, and contact information with another NFC enabled BlackBerry by simply tapping them against each other. I have to admit that it’s pretty neat to be able to share pictures with friends simply by tapping my phone to theirs. I keep waiting for more friends to upgrade to Bold 9900s or other BB7 devices so that I can use it more.
Another application of NFC technology is in the creation and use of smart tags. Smart tags are like QR codes but ones that actually work. The difference is that you need to tap your NFC enabled device against the smart tag to engage them and they can contain more than a website address. Smart tags can contain a range of information – phone numbers, websites, email addresses, coupons, media files, and graphics. They’re very versatile. With the Bold 9900, you can create and view smart tags. I have only found 1 smart tag to view but I’m always on the lookout for more! As more and more smartphones have the ability to access smart tags, there will be more and more smart tags around.
To turn on your NFC, go to “manage connections” and select Near Field Communication.
BlackBerry 7 devices come with a Smart Tags app already installed – it’s found in the Applications folder and looks like this:
So have you used the Near Field Communication abilities on your BlackBerry yet?