Recently the BlackBerry device was delivered two important apps for business users to their app store, Twitter and LinkedIn. For the last year the iPhone has been the dominant device for most major app development with Android becoming a distant second. BlackBerry devices seemed to be falling by the wayside. Which strikes me as odd seeing how BlackBerry devices are very dominant in the business world and growing in the consumer phone world as well. I know the easy answer is that the touch screen and just plain sex appeal of an iPhone is better than owning a BlackBerry (myself included), but I think these two apps will start to change that thinking. The reality is that the BlackBerry codex is more complicated and thus the apps cost more to make. However, as a business user, my BlackBerry rules and I need apps for it. After I recently had my BlackBerry upgraded to the Curve 8900 I started to look at apps not only to see what they looked like and how they worked with an eye to something we might build for my organization, but also just to see what was out there. Not much existed. While there are plenty of apps, nothing was ringing the same way my friends who have iPhones would talk about their apps. Hey, if we “bump” our phones together, we can share contact information. But maybe that was the point – the BlackBerry market is just different than the iPhone market.
I know that BlackBerry is more complex to write an application for. It has a different user interface and that can’t be simple to compensate for a lack of touch screen as an input (well there is the Storm(2). But I’m hoping these two apps start a push; a push for more apps to be developed. The Twitter and LinkedIn apps are important to me because I use them for professional purposes. And while I like looking at Facebook updates on my BlackBerry, I really have ignored my professional network on LinkedIn…until now. This app is a much needed upgrade from their mobile site, allowing me to do much more to monitor or share with my professional network. This is good.
Before upgrading to the new Twitter app I was using Über Twitter. Uber Twitter was nice at the time because it did more than just going to the mobile site of Twitter.com. However, it had ads that I found annoying, even if they were minimal intrusion. Now that Twitter has an official BlackBerry app, I’ve bailed on Über Twitter. I have to try the official app. According to the BlackBerry site, Twitter for BlackBerry features include:
- Get your Direct Messages as soon as they arrive
- Reply to tweets, re-tweet and send Direct Messages
- Post a link from your BlackBerry® Browser
- Take a funny picture and upload it
After a few days of use, I like the interface. I find the integration into my inbox for notifications useful. One of the downsides right now is that you can’t integrate multiple Twitter accounts or access them without logging out. The latter is something I like about Über Twitter. Also, you can’t edit a re-tweet in the official BlackBerry app. I will live with these two cons for the additional pros of accessing trending topics and overall Twitter search. Right now I have to find a balance between monitoring my Twitter accounts when I’m at my desk vs. on the go. Desktop monitoring is done via TweetDeck, which doesn’t have a BlackBerry app yet. The jury is still completely out on the official app, but it is a good first step.
LinkedIn is a different beast in and of itself. Similar to Facebook, but also not. LinkedIn is really the defacto profession network. While specialty networks will still arise, like MH Connected for lawyers, LinkedIn really addresses the business world as a whole, no matter what industry you are in.
Again, according to the LinkedIn blog, the app features:
- Network Updates. View and share crucial business intelligence and updates with your network. Perfect for those spare moments between meetings.
- Search. Search across over 60 million global professionals, and get the answer back in seconds. We’ve implemented a unified search across both your direct connections and the entire LinkedIn network.
- Connections. LinkedIn is your address book in the cloud. Get quick access to any of your connections to get their up-to-date profile information, and the ability to send them a message immediately.
- Invitations. Why wait to get back to your desk? Accept outstanding invitations immediately.
- Messages. Messaging is one of the reasons that BlackBerry owners love their devices, and we’ve worked hard to integrate your LinkedIn Inbox.
- Reconnect. You can’t leverage your network if you don’t build it. This module brings suggestions for new connections to you anytime. Now you can build your network from anywhere, in seconds.
These are great features that I have started to use. It reminds me a lot of the Facebook for BlackBerry app, but better.
Taking Advantage of the Platform
According to the announcement blog post, the LinkedIn app also takes advantage of several native BlackBerry applications. These include:
- Contacts. Integrate your LinkedIn connections with your BlackBerry address book, and view the profile of any contact directly on your BlackBerry.
- Messages. LinkedIn invitations and messages will now appear in your BlackBerry Inbox, just like any other email. You can also view the LinkedIn profile of the sender of any email you receive.
- Calendar. You can now view the LinkedIn profile of any attendee of a meeting on your BlackBerry calendar.
I can’t stress the importance of integration with the native features of BlackBerry OS. If you are going to use these third party networks, integration is key and this is one of the great aspects of the LinkedIn app. Going from the mobile site which was really basic and clunky to this app is like going from a pinto to a corvette. Nice job.
Overall the BlackBerry market needs to get a kick-start. Mobile professionals, while migrating to the iPhone and probably the Droid phones now too need apps for the BlackBerry. I’ll be frank in saying the pure interface of a BlackBerry is one of its biggest challenges. Whether it is the roller ball, the touch pad, or even the touch screen in the Storm(2), developing for the BlackBerry can’t be as easy as the Android and Apple devices. But here is to hoping. Hoping that more business applications come out that support good business use on the BlackBerry device.