Notes from a BlackBerry Newby

Capturing the Journey into the World of the BlackBerry

BB Killer Apps – Focus on HTTP NOT the browser!

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The browsers changed our lifes – from Mosaic to Netscape to Explorer to Firefox and Safari. But the real change was, and is, HTTP. For a while it was easy to confuse the two, but that is clear now – the bulk of the growth is NOT really about the browser!

Sure, a good browser is a must, but consider these key applications:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Alerts/News
  • ITunes

All of these are easily accessed through a browser on the desktop/ laptop but they do not rely on a browser. See for instance all the variations on the layout that FB has been attempting. Or all the different tweeter clients.

Browser integration is critical on the laptop because people live inside it (for multiple reasons, including, I believe, the size of the screen and the multi-tasking approach!). But thr flow of activity is different in the mobile: one needs to switch focus anyhow to go to a new task.  And, if you are going to switch, you can easily move from the browser to something else.  A browser is a good lowest common denominator access but it is NOT the most effective mechanism.

Case in point: I’m creating the draft for this blog on my BB using the WordPress BB App; but I use a browser on the laptop (confession- the WordPress app on my BB did not let tune-up a couple of things, so I am now doing a pass at my laptop before publishing the entry).

Back to killer Apps. Facebook, Blogs, Tweeter are all http-based, all keyboard-intensive and can make-do with a narrow window. Add fast delivery of information. And day-long use. And you get that push on a BB is a good fit.  Focus on facilitating these types of applications – for example, news, but not through the browser (see What is the Role for BB’s Web Signals?)

YouTubes (and Maps) are a bit harder. For those you need a larger screen. The storm2 had the right size but the market is still deciding on that SureType thingy.

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Written by pelegri

November 1, 2009 at 10:22 am

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BB AppWorld and iPhone App Store

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Just started spending a bit more time on the BB AppWorld.

At first approximation, the AppWorld is like the iPhone App Store.  And, from that perspective, I’d very much like to be able to use it to find out what I have on my BB.  It is quite confusing / distracting / cumbersome that the AppWorld tells me that I’ve archived Slacker 2.0.2, when I have installed Slacker 2.0.49.

It is very nice that RIM/BB does not force me to use the RIM AppWorld, but the AppWorld client should show me everything that’s in my device, not just what I installed via the RIM store.  The beauty of the BB infrastructure is that it knows that… but I don’t want to go to Options->Advanced->Applications and do a visual diff/aggregate.

And, while fixing that, I’d like to know what version of the AppWorld client I’m running from the application.  Pretty please!

Keep the good work…

Written by pelegri

October 31, 2009 at 10:57 am

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What is the Role for BB’s Web Signals?

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Just bumped into the BB web signal at the BB site. Where are they supposed to fit in the BB ecosystem? And why are they not in the AppWorld?

Are they an evolutionary dead-end?  A brand-new development?

They seem to me they could be a handy, quick, way for content providers to push information to the BB users via BB push.  The content is all relatively homogeneous and one could write a pretty nice generic WebSignal client that everybody could reuse to generate content (via RSS/Atom).  Then everybody reuses the same machinery and benefits from updates to the common client.

Right now (as tested by the CBC News and from the docs I can see), this is an icon that then launches the browser.  Which is emphasizing the weakest part of the BB platform!

Written by pelegri

October 31, 2009 at 10:36 am

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Fixing the Facebook App

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The Facebook app for my tour was a disappointment. Facebook seems a natural match for the Blackberries: the content is fairly well structured and can fit well within the small screen of the BBs. The keyboard makes for quick input and push should provide fast delivery of friends notifications without battery drain

But the UI for the BB was substantially inferior to that of the iPhone and the notification delivery was not very good

I think RIM needs a few Apps that are better on the BB than in any other phone and FB can be the one

I’d open source the FB App – at the least the client but ideally the server side too. Then welcome bug fixes and be very transparent about the whole development, and, when people want to contribute changes be receptive. And make this App the prototype for other high quality Apps on the BB.

And make it ASL; at this srtage of the Adoption game you want people to borrow this code to make as many other high quality Apps as possible

Written by pelegri

October 24, 2009 at 11:39 am

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Facebook Clients – BB Tour or iPod Touch

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Running entry – will update as I discover issues / learn new things

Strong Disclaimer: I’m not a regular user of FaceBook, but I’ll try to use the two a bit to get a reasonable feeling about how they work

WebSite

The new RIM home page for the Tour is an improvement, but I can’t figure out from there basic things (like the push behavior).

Note that the BlackBerry page at Facebook still likes 1.6 as the latest version, not 1.7.

Facebook pages/sites/comments

The Facebook page for the BB app claims 10M users and 291K.  16 of my friends use it.  Rating is 3.2/5 on +1800 reviews, but the latest reviews are much better.  Note same complaints about not getting notified of latest version (see below).  I also had the same issue as reported there on battery consumption.  And ditto about not getting notifications (may be a problem with overloads/deployments, we will see)

The Facebook page for the iPhone app claims 15M users (and 532K fans). 44 of my friends use it. Rating is 3.8/5 on 3940 reviews.  All recent reviews are 5.

Random numbers: iPhone-3G has 662K fans; iPhone has 375K fans; iPhone, 3G has 241K fans.  iPod Touch has 243K fans.

Presentation

I like the iPhone better.  Easier to see what’s there, easier to select.  Easier to do a better job because there is more real-estate to play with, and it is natural to just click on the screen rather than having to move around with the trackball, but things like the font-size are better on the iPhone and there is not a good reason for that.

Note, I have an old G1 8GB iPod Touch (MA623LL), running 3.1.2 (7D11).  I’m going to try it also on my kid’s G2 iPod Touch.

My son is a regular and heavy FaceBook user. I showed him the BB interface and he was confused; it didn’t match his mental model of what the home page was, etc.  I’m going to do the same experiment tomorrow with the iPhone client.

Physical Screen

ipod Screen size – 320 × 480 px, 3.5 in (89 mm), 2:3 aspect ratio, 262,144-color LCD at 163 pixels per inch (ppi)

Tour Screen size – 480 x 360 px, Half VGA+, 2.6 in (diagonal), roughly 2:3, 65K-color LCD. ?? ppi (~210 ppi?)

Push Events

I was expecting the BB to get events pushed automatically.  Maybe it is a user configuration? Maybe I didn’t generate the right notification (I changed my status).

Actually the BB didn’t notice the change as fast as the iPod did.

Chat

iPod has it, BB does not. See no chat.

Others – iTunes AppStore vs BB AppStore

My BB came with the FaceBook app installed and it automatically upgraded it, but note that several folks are complaining that they have registered for notifications of upgrades and instead have to get the info from CrackBerry.  The lack of coordination across the different release mechanisms is an issue and leads to unsatisfaction w/ customers.  See FaceBook 1.7 announcement @CB, complains 1, 2,

The iPhone/iPod guys have a much better story on this.

I am sorry to say that!  I’m am usually against Apple’s policy of forcing me to go through their AppStore for upgrades, but, in this aspect, there is a benefit.  A solution may be to insist to BB partners to release first to the BB AppStore, then to their sites – and do a better job with the leaks – they are not helping.

Written by pelegri

October 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm

BB ideas – Storm as USB monitor

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I can use a BBerry as an attached mass device although I’ve not done much with that so far, except copy/edit content manually, but it works fine.

I’ve wanted one of those secondary small monitors for a bit (like the mimo), to use as a dedicated widget screen.  They connect to the laptop via a USB, some have a touchscreen, some do not…

What if the Storm(2) supported that?

Written by pelegri

October 12, 2009 at 4:48 pm

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Applications and BlackBerry

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(This is a post in progress.  Should it be a page instead of a post?  Multiple Posts?  So far, it is just a collection of links)

Some random links on the status of Application Store / Development for the BlackBerry.

The iPhone AppStore

Written by pelegri

October 11, 2009 at 8:47 am

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