They can have my Blackberry when they pry it out of my cold dead hands!Charlton Heston (mostly).

Is my bias clear?

Don’t get me wrong. Apple makes a very good phone and the Google Android system, when coupled with companies like Sony and Samsung, is an excellent product.

Being able to play a game, take funky photos or watch cute kitten videos is fine. I freely admit I love my Apple iPod touch and have enjoyed playing with my freebie Android phone. Apple will dominate the app market and with all its different manufacturers. Android will always have the best, newest hardware. The hardware, app frenzy, stoked by the marketing geniuses at Apple, has dominated smartphone reviews for the last three or four years.

It is both amazing and exciting to see how much raw power can be jammed into these little boxes. However, for me, a phone is primarily a communication tool.

Apps, Hardware are NOT the point, usability is

In my view, RIM, intentionally or not, has taken a different path from the ‘app store’ story. Their greatest strength is they’ve spent over 10 years innovating, refining and renovating the various communication tools inside the handsets they make.

I spend 90% of my mobile time doing one of five activities (sometimes more than one):

• reading e-mail
• writing e-mail
• sending text messages: SMS, BBM, MSN etc
• making phone calls
• reviewing Tweets from Twitter

Perhaps I’d better explain the last one. I find Twitter to be an amazing tool for catching up on headlines and additional information. It summarizes a lot of breaking news and usually provides links if you need more details.

I seldom use it to post what kind of socks I just put on, ponderings over which Transformer I am most like, or my favourite Sheen quote.

But, I digress.

The native Blackberry Twitter app is phenomenal and much easier to use than the one for Android or Apple.

Interestingly for some, I don’t really use my cell phone for making calls very much and I almost never TAKE phone calls. I don’t like the leashed feeling. I’m simply not one to talk on the phone very much.

Also, I worry about those darn radio microwaves.

Getting the most juice out of your Blackberry

There are now in excess of 10,000 apps on Blackberry App World. This is dwarfed by what you can find for Apple or Android but its still about 9,994 apps MORE than you need to turn your Blackberry into the ultimate communication device.

However, before we talk about apps to add to your device, we should first make sure you getting maximum usage from your phone as it is now. If you have spent the money on getting a Blackberry then you may as well take advantage of all the refined features that RIM has invested in the phone. Most of this communication goodness is packaged up in the native operating system and is accessed in the form of Keyboard Shortcuts.

I am surprised at how few Blackberry owners know about keyboard shortcuts. Not using them is like owning a sports car and never going on a highway. Moreover, quite a few Blackberry users are corporate users. This usually means they are not allowed to download apps onto their phones. The shortcuts allow you to get many of the usual benefits of apps without having to download anything or make the network nerds fret about security.

Blackberry keyboard shortcuts

Wait until you try this! In fact, no, don’t wait. Pull out your Blackberry now and follow along with me as we go through this. If you don’t make some amazed and probably embarrassing noise as you do this, then you probably have fallen victim to some form of iPhone brainwashing and you are past redemption.

Open your email screen, then push the following keys:

• “T” jumps you to the top of a screen
• “B” goes to the bottom of the screens
• “spacebar” to scroll down a screen
• “N” to go the next day’s emails
• “P” previous day
• “J” to see threaded discussion-ie. You can see the chain of emails as you and others replied back and forth
• “R” to reply to this email, either on the main email screen or in the email itself
• “F” to forward emails
• “L” to reply-to-all
• “C” to compose new emails

A lot of these also work in the Facebook or Twitter or other third party apps.

Once you are composing an email or text or document or note, here are some great composition shortcuts you may not be aware of:

• Holding down the letter caps it.
• When typing an email address, the first time you hit the space bar it inserts an “@” and the second time you hit the spacebar it inserts a “.” which makes typing an email address very quick and easy
• Hitting the “spacebar” twice puts in a period, then a space and then caps the next letter
• “Alt+Right Shift” turns CAPS on
• “Alt+Left Shift” turns the Number Pad on

You should also consider editing your own list of AutoText functions under SetUp> AutoText for phrases you use a lot. Some handy pre-added ones are:

• Typing “i” automatically becomes “I”
• “wel” becomes “we’ll” “iv” becomes ”I’ve” “hel” becomes “he’ll” etc

Then, you can add any more you want. In my phone, “okb” becomes “Ok, buddy, see you soon” to use with texts to my teenage son.

Miscellaneous

• On Dial Screen, use ‘Alt” to dial letters eg: 800-GET-RICH dials as: 18004387472 or if you have to dial a person’s last name on a voicemail system
• Assign quick keys to people you call all the time. “H” for home etc
• Pressing and holding 1 gets you to your voicemail
• “I” to zoom in browser, “O” to zoom out
• “k” for bookmarks
• “g” for the address bar
• Use Menu > Reading View to isolate and enlarge the main column of a website in your browser view
• The “T,B, spacebar” shortcuts previously mentioned all work on the browser as well.
• Hold the volume button on the side to jump to the next or previous song

The Complete Guide to Kevin’s Blackberry Universe

In addition to the shortcuts, AutoText above, here is a list what I do on my three year old Blackberry Bold 9000:

• Dictate text messages, notes, email, searches- see Vlingo below
• Read PDF reports, novels-see Repligo
• Keep up to date, sort and review Twitter news tweets
• Update/save/send backed-up Office documents from server
• Review PowerPoint presentations
• Update/Browse/Search Evernote files from my computer
• Schedule meetings, activities, calls or check the ones that have been scheduled for me
• Check wife’s schedule and what wife has scheduled for me-using Google Calendar
• Listen to Podcasts: Coverville, Economist, NPR
• Play BeJewelled, Sudoko, Zombies
• Use phone numbers to plot map routes
• Record videos, take photos to share with family via email, MMS and Facebook
• Watch YouTube videos using wi-fi
• Find movie theatres, restaurants, menus, gas stations-see Poynt
• Tether my laptop to suck up my data plan
• Send notes and information to my online GTD organizer.

Supercharging your Blackberry

As mentioned, here are a half dozen apps from the Blackberry App World that are worth a download. If you have purchased a Blackberry in the last three years these should run on your system with no problem. Storm users need to double check.

Vlingo

If you could only pick a single app, this would be the one to pick. Once set up, it allows you to dictate text messages, emails and notes using only your voice! So, for example, after a meeting, take 15 minutes and record your meeting notes and it converts it quickly and accurately into text or email (or both). It also allows you to use your voice to set up calls, do Google searches, open applications, etc. It is an amazing deal that makes the smartphone doubly useful.

Repligo Reader

If you are allowed two apps on your phone, make this one the second. This software makes it easy to store and read PDF files. It doesn’t just allow you to zoom in, it actually re-configures the PDF document so the text fits the screen exactly. If you want a bigger bolder font then simply choose it and the Reader just pushes the document down so that you never need to scrolls sideways back and forth to read a PDF. I personally have all investment manager, insurance or tax reports forwarded to my Blackberry email and catch up on reading when I have an extra 10 min to spare. This has again expanded immensely the usefulness of the phone for me.

Poynt
Forget Urban Spoon, this cool little Swiss Army knife of an app lets you use your phone’s GPS to find the closest restaurant, movie theatre and businesses. You can see menus, make reservations, see movie trailers, call them, map a route or find a specific type of meal. It also allows you to do reverse look up of numbers, see the weather forecast and it will even predict interest rates. Well, the last one, not really but that would be cool, eh?

Google App
It has Mail, Maps, your Calendar, the Google Reader, etc. Its free, updated and slick, so just get it.

Kobo
This Chapters/Indigo book reader app works beautifully on your Blackberry. You can browse the free titles, paid titles and best sellers list. Realistically, unless you have a Torch its not going to be a perfect reading experience but again, its great when you have a few minutes to relax or get caught on a train or commute without anything to do.

CompanionLink

This funky app is actually part of the software package you can use to synchronize your current contact manager (ACT, Outlook, Goldmine, Lotus Notes etc) to your Blackberry. Contacts, tasks, calendar, appointments can by synced one way –either way or both ways so that any time you update your Blackberry information it will be moved to your desktop software as well. Further it can also be used to sync things in all sort of various ways, your Outlook contacts with Google, for example.

I know this seems like a combination dense list and crazy ranting diatribe. It may be partially therapeutic for me but it springs from frustrations triggered by doing seminars and talking to so many current Blackberry owners who intend to ditch their BB to get an iphone or alternative for a feature that their existing Blackberry already offers, sometimes in a better-executed format.

I fully understand – and am myself sometimes tempted by- the novelty, the cool-factor and over all ‘slick-willy-ness’ of the iphone slab and the Massive Marketing Machine known as Apple. As a gadget geek and amateur tech dweeb, I CRAVE seeing what is out there and what can be done. And ALL the companies (including RIM) have done an excellent job of making us think the phone itself is the point.

But, in the end, I own a smartphone for one core reason: To enhance my ability to get my work and my life taken care of.

So, whether a phone has 1,000 or a 1,000,000 apps available, has 500mgs or 1 gig of RAM, has a 5mg or an 8mg camera, it doesn’t really matter to me as long as it enhances my ability to work and live. And in my less-than-humble opinion, based on features like the keyboard shortcuts and over a decade of refinement, the Blackberry does that best.

Further Resources:

  • Visit Advisor.ca on your phone to access our custom mobile experience.
  • www.bbgeeks.com
  • www.crackberry.com
  • Twitter: @BlackBerryHelp, @Advisorca
  • Kevin Cork, CFP, is President of TheAbsoluteGroup.com and a best-selling author.
    Originally published on Advisor.ca
    See all comments Recent Comments

    brent.travis.1

    It is quite obvious you didn’t get stung by the BB Storm.

    Tuesday, Apr 5, 2011 at 5:13 pm Reply

    KCork

    Hey Brent

    Alot of the above ‘keyboard’ shortcuts and some of the apps are available for the Storm. Here is an example of what I mean:

    http://www.cio.com/article/466118/RIM_BlackBerry_Storm_Shortcuts_20_Touch_Screen_Tips_and_Tricks

    However, RIM is not repeating the Storm ‘storm’ when it releases its next all-touch screen, due to be announced in May. I have stored some links to ‘leaks’ here on my blog:

    http://screamingadvisoronline.blogspot.com/2011/04/new-blackberries-torch2.html

    Friday, Apr 8, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Don Macfarlane

    Great article! Don’t pay any attention to the Apple fan. These folks will line up around the block for a pad that can’t print (at leaset to the four printers I have), can’t take pictures, can’t accept a USB device, only to get to line up a few months later to buy a similar device that does. Although the fans have paid twice for a pad, Apple did beat RIM to market. Does anyone else remember the Apple III? Yes III! My office had several back in the 80’s. The screen would freeze every hour or so, so you needed to save every ten minutes. That’s why many of us use Windows machines. Apple was however quick to market with their business machine!

    Friday, Apr 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm Reply

    KimS

    Thanks for all the great information Kevin. I cannot comment with any intelligence on whether my bberry is better or worse than an IPhone or any other smart phone since our corporate need for secruity dictates the choice of smart phone for me. That’s its big win.

    Having said that – my bberry is a very useful, functional tool that provides me with a myriad of choices to enhance my life. You have given me a few more that I have/will add to make the experience even better. I appreciated your article and have shared it with others on my team.

    Thursday, Mar 31, 2011 at 8:34 am Reply

    michael.cranston.11

    Good for you for being a Blackberry fanboy, but for objective analysis I’ll certainly look somewhere else. You only play with your other devices, until you have them connected and use them in business context, (and lose your infatuation with you BB), you won’t be able to write an article that provides useful information. Without an fully connected iPhone/Android in one pocket and a BB in the other, your article is far too biased. If my company allowed for corporate email without the Blackberry, I’d have more space for pocket change.

    I’ll agree with one statement, “..Hardware are NOT the point, usability is”. But then you go on to point out the important of KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS for a BB user! Do you know see what you’re saying? A device that requires keyboard shortcuts for efficient use is NOT usable. Apps, like your favourite Twitter app, make mobile devices easier to actually use. That is why apps are important. I notice you don’t even list your web browser as an important tool on your mobile device, that likely says a lot about you. Your device has formed your usage patterns, your device usage didn’t form around you.

    Honestly, the Blackberry has come a long way in the last 2 years, but I’m sure I would have read the same article from you two years ago when it couldn’t even see the competition.

    Following last week’s guidance debacle, I’m am finally back in RIM from the long side. I’ve been able to play the ranges from the long and short side over the past year perfectly. I’m pretty sure your lack of objectivity made last week a painful time for you. The aroma of the coffee is very strong, try to take a whiff on occasion.

    Thursday, Mar 31, 2011 at 7:16 am Reply

    KCork

    “Good for you for being a Blackberry fanboy, but for objective analysis I’ll certainly look somewhere else. You only play with your other devices, until you have them connected and use them in business context, (and lose your infatuation with you BB), you won’t be able to write an article that provides useful information.”

    I appreciate how carefully and thoroughly you read the article. But your presumptions are wrong.

    As I alluded to, I loved the cool-factor of the Apple when it first came out and started taking it with me everywhere, downloaded a ton of fun apps and using it for email, texting, etc. I even used it for Skype. The slightly larger screen IS better for reading a few emails. But most require me to stretch the email to make it bigger which bleeds the text off the page meaning I have to scroll sideways, back and forth, back and forth. I love the fact that BB fits the text of the email into the full width of the screen and can be easily set to remove a lot extraneous graphics which makes its both easier to read and quicker to respond to.

    And then scrolling through past emails is slow and cumbersome with lots of finger-flicking. AND, you lose a lot of that screen “real estate” when you have to pull the screen-based keyboard up to type a response to that email.

    Further, having to take several steps to flip out of and then flip back into the email was cumbersome. I especially don`t like not being able to switch between active or recently used programs very easily.

    So, when I got my Android with the slide out keyboard I thought I’d found the best of both worlds, a touch screen with a keyboard. That did provide some advantages over both Apple and Blackberry but it still was not as easy to simply review, handle, sort and respond to emails/texts as the Blackberry was. An app, Slide-It, has made writing text far easier but doesnt address the mail handling issues.

    So, using the other phones made me appreciate the Blackberry a lot more. Yes both the other devices have some cool features and way more fun apps but in terms of overall functionality, the Blackberry is better.

    “Without an fully connected iPhone/Android in one pocket and a BB in the other, your article is far too biased. If my company allowed for corporate email without the Blackberry, I’d have more space for pocket change…”

    I`d say three things:
    1. I don`t think I am too biased. I think I am biased just enough.

    2. And you underestimate my geekiness, My Android IS fully connected with a much cheaper talk and data plan. My email continues to come to all three devices and I am surrounded by wi-fi all day long. I have these three devices, two tablets, two laptops, five desktops (XP, Win7(2) Apple and Ubuntu) six LCD monitors and three remote controls. And THAT`s why I am a chick magnet!

    3. I`d suggest not carrying both phones in your pocket unless you`re not worried about sterility.

    “I’ll agree with one statement, “..Hardware are NOT the point, usability is”. But then you go on to point out the important of KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS for a BB user! Do you know see what you’re saying? A device that requires keyboard shortcuts for efficient use is NOT usable. Apps, like your favourite Twitter app, make mobile devices easier to actually use. That is why apps are important…”

    You have got to be kidding.

    You feel a device that uses built-in hardware features to speed up needed functions is LESS useable than one that needs you to know about, find, buy, download additional software to speed up needed functions???

    You are right that if the device doesn’t come with things like keyboard shortcuts or funky screen/tap tricks apps are VERY important.

    “I notice you don’t even list your web browser as an important tool on your mobile device, that likely says a lot about you. Your device has formed your usage patterns, your device usage didn’t form around you…”

    Really? You honestly believe that reading e-mail, writing e-mail, sending text messages: SMS, BBM, MSN and making phone calls were functions I chose to do only AFTER getting a smartphone… ??? Consider the possibility that I wanted to do those things before getting a smart phone and those –perhaps- WERE THE REASON I got a smart phone…

    As for web browsing, yes the browser in my old Blackberry sucks very badly. The Apple and Android web browser (and new Blackberries) ònly`suck badly. Phones aren’t and cant be good web browsing devices. You simply need more physical size.

    The extent of my web browsing comes down to glancing at an article to see if I am interested and then, 90% of the time, sending it to my email to read later.

    BTW, as an aside, our IPad2 only sucks a little at web browsing. Its pretty cool otherwise. (BUT its still not as good as my three year old Blackberry at communicating, HAH!)

    “Honestly, the Blackberry has come a long way in the last 2 years, but I’m sure I would have read the same article from you two years ago when it couldn’t even see the competition…”

    Yes. That`s mostly right though there have been a few upgrades as the phone`s OS has been updated to 5.0

    But to be fair I must say Apple has come farther. The latest OS update goes a long way to help Apple catch up. But that is only if you like the new built in features like the double tap options etc. Based on your previous comments, I know you don`t like built in options and prefer to have to know about, find, pay for and download additional software, right?

    Android had the advantage over both Blackberry and Apple of coming later to the market as mobile technology developed. I have version 2.1 not 2.3.

    However, I don’t think you fully understand the point you are making…and that I should have made: A Blackberry built three years ago has more communication functionality than the latest iPhone or Android built last week. And that Blackberry is still just running 5.0 and not the newest 6.0.

    “Following last week’s guidance debacle, I’m am finally back in RIM from the long side. I’ve been able to play the ranges from the long and short side over the past year perfectly. I’m pretty sure your lack of objectivity made last week a painful time for you. The aroma of the coffee is very strong, try to take a whiff on occasion.”

    Well Teddy, I must congratulate you on your uncanny ability to predict the future… but then you KNEW I was going to say that didn’t you….

    Just to clarify though, you understand the article was actually being biased about Blackberry PRODUCTS and dumping unfairly on iPhones and Android phones and NOT talking about RIM vs Apple vs Google shares, right?

    Ok, teasing aside, you obviously have put lots of time and effort into learning about the phones and if you are fully conversant in at least some of the Blackberry features and still find you like your iphone better, then use the iphone.

    The article is targeted to those who have a Blackberry by choice or force and didn’t know many of the things it can do. Some of these things, in my less-than-humble opinion, it does better than Apple or Android.

    At the very least, if you are ‘forced’ to use a Blackberry because of getting one free for work, doesn’t it make sense to use it as efficiently as possible to get the work email over so that you can get back to using your ‘real’ phone?

    Sunday, Apr 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Add a comment

    Have your say on this topic! Comments are moderated and may be edited or removed by
    site admin as per our Comment Policy. Thanks!