It’s no secret that I love my BlackBerry devices. I have a BlackBerry in my hand for a good 60% of the day. One of the things I love most about BlackBerry is how easy it makes it to work on the go. I wrote about my Blackberry Classic and how much I loved it and the difficulties in choosing a case for it. I’ve found the same thing with my BlackBerry Passport. I love the Passport even more than the Classic. At first I thought it was going to be too big. I looked down at the device in the box and thought “I’ll probably be using the Classic again within a month”. Well, I was wrong. So very wrong. The Classic has found a new home in the hands of my dad, and the Passport is mine, all mine. I mentioned with regards to the Classic how much I had missed the physical keyboard even though I had loved my Z30 with all my heart. Well the Passport takes the keyboard experience to a whole new level. It just feels right. The screen width on the Passport makes reading text a breeze – the wider screen allows more characters which reduces scrolling (and makes me a happier reader). Contrary to what I thought before I had a Passport, the Passport does fit in my pants pocket, and in my purse, so it goes pretty much everywhere I go. I have a BlackBerry hard shell case on it 90% of the time and a Folio case with a credit card slot the rest of the time (It’s an aftermarket one, but needs improvements if it was going to be a daily driver).
Depression, Grief, and #BellLetsTalk
Today is Bell Let’s Talk day – a day where mental health takes centre stage on Canadian social media. I’m not normally a huge fan of corporate sponsorship, but this case is a little different. Bell media has huge reach in this country – they own and operate 34 specialty channels, 2 conventional networks, 4 pay TV services, 106 radio stations, 30 apps, and more than 200 websites. That equates to a staggering reach, which can help promote this vital message. So I’m willing to put my dislike of corporations jumping on charitable causes in order to get exposure on hold today. Bell funds a number of really important initiatives with money raised by people using the #BellLetsTalk hashtag on social media and through sending texts on the Bell Mobile network. Funding for mental health is sorely lacking in this country so anything that helps increase services is okay in my books.
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?
Apps I can’t live without.
It’s been awhile – I’ve been busy with life and spending far too much time with my BlackBerry Z10. The advantage of spending so much time with my Z10 is that I have a shortlist of the “Can’t miss Apps” for BlackBerry 10. These are my favourite apps, the ones I use on a daily basis.
1) Password Keeper – This app was standard on earlier BlackBerry devices, and is a free download for the Z10. It has all the functionality that I wrote about here but is on your BlackBerry 10 Device.
2) BlackBerry Messenger – Another old standard but one that I use daily to keep in touch with friends and family. It’s just so convenient. The Video chat feature on BlackBerry 10 devices allows you to do more than simply type to your contacts, you can actually see them and have a face to face conversation.
3) BlackBerry Remember – I had my doubts on how useful Remember would be. I was so wrong. I use it every single day. It’s better than any other notepad app I’ve used. It allows you to flag emails and put them into a file folder within the Remember App, but more than that, it allows you to add photos, videos, voice notes, and documents to the folder.
I have a BlackBerry Live folder and my airline tickets, hotel confirmation, event schedule, and hotel shuttle emails are all inside that folder so that I can easily find them as I need them.You can assign due dates to items within a folder and never forget a deadline again. You can also pull in contacts so if you are working on a project with a co-worker, you will have their contact info alongside all the information for the project. The BlackBerry video about Remember gives a pretty awesome overview of this amazing app.
4) CrackBerry 10 – I admit it, I’m a CrackBerry addict. I was going to the website a couple of times a day to keep up with the latest BlackBerry news. The CrackBerry 10 app for BlackBerry 10 allows me to catch up on the latest news and reviews in a really nicely designed and user friendly manner. To access the category feature simply tap the CB home button at the bottom of the screen in the app:
Once you do that, you will be greeted with a list of categories – I tend to read everything but if you only want to read reviews, it can be really helpful to go straight to the reviews category. My favourite thing about the CrackBerry 10 app is that it’s built for BlackBerry. I have nothing against Android ports but they don’t always work in quite the same way that apps built specifically for the BlackBerry 10 platform.
5) Blaq – The native Twitter app on the BlackBerry 10 operating system is not as good as the version I had on my Bold 9900. I use Twitter a lot and needed something better. I have used Blaq on my PlayBook, so when it was released for the BlackBerry 10 in late April, I eagerly downloaded it. It took a little getting used to and I’m still discovering little gems like the ability to quote tweets. (You can only do it from inside the tweet itself, not from the main screen) I will do a full post on Blaq soon for all my Twitter addicted friends who need a solid app that works well and is stable
6) Podcasts – I’m late to the podcast party, but I love listening to them as I walk around town. I had a few different Podcast apps on my Bold 9900 but my favourite wasn’t available for the BlackBerry Z10. After consulting some of my fellow BlackBerry Elite members, I downloaded Podcasts for BlackBerry 10. I love how easy and intuitive the app is to use. It also doesn’t drain my battery the way other podcast apps have. The selection of podcasts in the app is pretty good but you can search and manually add your favourite podcasts within the menu if they aren’t on the list. The only complaint I’ve heard is from my friend Nick who listens to a lot of podcasts while riding his bike to and from work – he would like a feature that skips back 5 or 10 seconds in the podcast when you restart after a pause, so that you don’t miss anything. I agree it would enhance the app but even without that feature, the app is head and shoulders above any other podcast app for BlackBerry 10.
These are my favourite (non game) apps so far. I’m going to be testing BlackBerry Travel next week as I journey to BlackBerry Live, and I will let you know how it works on BlackBerry 10 afterwards.
What are your favourite BlackBerry 10 apps? What app do you really want to see on the platform?
Initial impressions on the BlackBerry Z10
On Wednesday, January 30th, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Toronto launch for the BlackBerry 10 smartphone. I had been eagerly anticipating the launch and was thrilled to be invited to both the party and a special pre-event for the BlackBerry Elite program. I am very lucky to be a member of such a great program from a brand that truly knows how important its fans are to its long term success. As a member of the program, I’d had sneak peeks at the Z10, participated in a conference call / slide share presentation with Alec Saunders – the Vice President of Developer Relations for BlackBerry, and had the chance to chat with other BlackBerry fans through BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) and on social media. There was a reception for the members of the BlackBerry Elite program at a wonderful restaurant on Church Street prior to the evening’s fan night activities. The always wonderful Kerri Birch was there (she’s one of the awesome people who manage the @BlackBerry twitter account). There was some socializing, and then she announced that we were all getting BlackBerry Z10 smartphones to use and show off and generally do what I’ve always done with my devices. I seriously debated squealing with delight but it wasn’t that type of restaurant. I’m pretty sure that my friend Christine and I didn’t stop grinning for hours. Some of the people there had received their phones earlier that day, and some had had them for a few days already so they helped those of us who had just received our phones put the micro Sim cards in and get started with our phones.
Let me say now that I was a bit hesitant about going to a touch screen phone. I’ve had some horrible auto correct fails on the iPhone and on an Android phone. I found the keyboards hard to get used to and slow to type on. The predictive text was average at best. I created a new BlackBerry ID for my Z10 – because I was going to keep my Bold 9900 around as a backup, and because my Fido e-mail address wouldn’t migrate to the BlackBerry 10. Within 10 minutes of getting the Z10 up and running I was marveling at the ease of typing on this touch screen. While a lot of the pre-launch information was describing the ability to type one handed, I was thrilled to discover that I could still “thumb type” on the Z10. The predictive text is amazing – as you start typing words appear where your eyes would go on the keyboard if you were typing the whole word, and a simple swipe up will select that word. For example if you were typing the word “hello”, you would type “h-e” and then as you look to the “l” the word “hello” is above it, a single swipe and it’s there. It’s pretty cool. Another neat feature of the predictive text is if you type a few words “Testing out” the phone will suggest words that you’ve used before after those words or words that commonly come after the words you typed. You just need to swipe up to select them.
The other thing that amazed me right away was how light the Z10 is. It weighs less than 140g (5oz). The light weight makes it easy to use one handed (even if I still prefer to type with 2 hands).
It’s the little things that are making me love my Z10. The address bar for the browser is at the bottom of the screen, not the top so that if you’re using it one handed you can tap the bar to enter an address without trying to stretch and reach the top of the rather tall screen. I love how functional the documents to go feature is – I can create, edit, and share Excel, Powerpoint, and Word files on the go. It’s a big improvement over the documents to go on my Bold 9900 that lets me edit and share documents but not create them. Some of the apps aren’t quite as useful as I’d like them to be – Twitter for instance doesn’t yet allow multiple accounts and doesn’t let me use the lists I’ve meticulously created to manage all of the accounts I follow. This isn’t a knock on the BlackBerry Z10 – it’s a criticism of the native app, and one that I’ve been told is being fixed. I’ve been playing with different twitter apps, and though I still prefer the native app on my Bold 9900, I’ve found that Neatly is a nice little app for the Z10. It allows me to mute hashtags (a huge plus) but didn’t import my lists from Twitter, which is kind of annoying since I don’t want to have to recreate them. Likewise, the Facebook app is not as fully featured as the app on my Bold 9900. I can’t say that I miss Facebook chat but some people will.
I’ve had a lot of fun playing with the time shift camera – taking pictures with friends and their kids is so easy with the camera – the only thing i would change about it is to have the flash work with timeshift. Some of the times when I most need the feature have been in dimly lit situations where I need a flash too. In fact it’s the flash that often makes people blink. I’m hoping that there will be a way to let the flash stay on (like it does for a flashlight app) in a future update of the OS.
The Hub has won me over completely. I love being able to see all my messages immediately and decide if I want to stop what I’m doing in order to reply or if they’re not worth my time. It’s now at the point where rather than being frustrated by the things I was used to about my Bold 9900 and don’t have on my Z10 (like the physical keyboard), I’m trying to do things like access the Hub on my 9900 and am frustrated when I can’t get there.
One thing that I’m not using as much on my Z10 but that I can see a lot of other people using is the filters that are built into the camera. I have to confess, I’m not huge on Instagram – mostly because it seems to just be a vehicle to share pictures that I don’t really need to see. The one thing that intrigued me about Instagram was the photo filters. I have a photo editing program on my Z10 ( KVAD Group Photo Studio Pro) that allows me to edit any pictures but for the simplified filter effects, I don’t even need to leave the camera. You can take a picture of the pretty snow:
Then you can add any one of a number of artistic filters (black and white, sepia, antique, lomo, whiteboard, watercolor, negative, or sketch), styles (smooth face, sixties, grain, age photo, filmstrip, halftone, cartoon, or big eyes), auto enhance it, adjust the brightness, remove red eye, or change the contrast, sharpness, white balance, and saturation of the picture. Of course you can also rotate the picture, change its orientation or its aspect ratio; all within the editing program that is part of the camera package on the Z10. The only style I really like to use so far is the age photo. Here’s the picture with the Age Photo style applied.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for old photos (even photos that just look old).
Do you have a BlackBerry Z10? Are you holding out for the Q10? What is your favourite feature on the BlackBerry 10?