WorldMate Live adds Yelp search for BlackBerry

Travelers don't always get to do their homework about restaurants and nightlife before they leave, and you don't want to be stuck relying on the advice of someone who winds up sharing different tastes than you.

That's the theory, anyway, behind WorldMate's latest update to its travel app for BlackBerry. WorldMate 3.0 for BlackBerry now features a local dining and entertainment search option powered by Utilizing the phone's GPS, WorldMate, via Yelp, can suggest establishments nearby or near airports. Clicking to see more details takes you to Yelp's mobile site; we … Read more

BlackBerry VM-605 speakerphone plays nice with most phones, car stereos

"If you have a third-party Bluetooth-enabled device, you might be able to pair it with the BlackBerry Visor Mount Speakerphone VM-605."

That is Research In Motion's official line about the VM-605's compatibility. In English, this means that while RIM would rather you use this first-party accessory with its BlackBerry smartphones, there's nothing proprietary about it to prevent you from using it with your iPhone, Android phone, or Windows Mobile phone.

But why would someone without a BlackBerry even want a BlackBerry branded accessory in the first place? Well, the VM-605 has a feature set similar … Read more

Follow up to 'Good-bye iPhone...'

My last post about "reverse switching" from an iPhone back to a BlackBerry generated a lot of great comments that I believe warrant a short follow-up (much shorter than the original post, I promise). I can't address all the comments, but here are a few thoughts.

For the record, in my post, I'm describing 3.1 software on an iPhone 3G.

Yes, the 3GS actually speed some things up, such as the camera; however, in my view, the iPhone's speed issue is not one of CPU horsepower, but because of its fundamental interface architecture. As I say in the article, the paned, step-by-step interface is "easy," but it puts a limit on how fast it can be used, simply because of the number of steps it requires to perform a task. Apple can speed the CPU all it wants, and it will only make a marginal difference to the key usability index of time on task (the amount of time it takes to start and complete an activity).

(As an aside, on the topic of doing great user interface with a low performance device, here's an old post I wrote about the UI design of the Palm. Palm beat the experience provided by Windows Mobile phones of the day, even though its CPU, memory, and screen were far inferior.)

As some point out, there are things that can be done with a jailbroken phone that address specific issues. However, I'm using a work-issued phone, so I'm not going to jailbreak a phone that doesn't belong to me. Besides, jailbreaking is something that only a tiny percentage of users will risk doing, or even know about. You may say I'm a BlackBerry power user (I don't really think I am; there are people who know way more about it than I do), but things like knowing one's way around the menu are way less geeky than jailbreaking.… Read more

Brightkite finds way to BlackBerry App World

Location-based social network Brightkite announced its first native BlackBerry application on Thursday. It was created by a third-party developer using the company's application programming interface. Brightkite already offers native applications to iPhone and Android users.

Dubbed myKite, the BlackBerry app, which was created by developer Chris Hallgren, locates the user through the BlackBerry's built-in GPS. It then finds other Brightkite users nearby in real time. When other people are found, myKite allows users to browse profiles, check status updates, post photos, and write notes on different establishments around town.

Prior to the release of myKite, BlackBerry users had … Read more

BlackBerry Tour trackball issues--how widespread?

BlackBerry Tour, which is available to both Verizon Wireless and Sprint customers, is under scrutiny for trackball issues that have led some Tour owners to return the smartphones.

The question is: how widespread is the problem?

TownHall Investment Research's David Eller said in a research note this week that he has consulted "experts" who have determined Research In Motion is having a "big trackball problem, especially with the Tour," which was launched in July.

Eller wrote that BlackBerry Tour owners are being forced "to clean the trackball frequently and preferably with compressed air." When they don't clean the trackball, the issues get worse, leading them to bring the device back to the store for repairs or returns.

It has gotten so bad, Eller contends, that Sprint's "return rates have been climbing toward 50 percent."

A 50 percent return rate on a mobile phone would be huge. But Sprint is telling a much different story.

"We experienced a small percentage of early production Blackberry Tour smartphones with trackball issues," a Sprint representative said in a phone interview Wednesday night. "As soon as the issue was identified, we worked closely with our partners at RIM to resolve the problem quickly. Any customer experiencing issues with the Tour should visit a Sprint service and repair center."

Sprint, which said it had never worked with TownHall Investment Research prior to the research note's release this week, said the number of BlackBerry Tour returns it experienced "weren't even close to 50 percent." The Sprint representative said it was "a very small percentage." He wouldn't release exact figures but did say the percentage was in line with other new devices that experience some hardware problems at launch.

But Eller didn't only mention Sprint. In the same note, he wrote that "Verizon is experiencing serious problems with the Tour." He claimed that "Verizon will soon be getting new smartphones from Motorola and Palm that compete with RIM. Verizon is angry about this recurring trackball problem and is telling its retailers to expect strong support for the new Motorola phone."

However, Verizon spokesman Jim Gerace said in a phone call Thursday that the "BlackBerry Tour has the lowest return rate of any smartphone Verizon Wireless is selling. In fact, its return rate is one of the lowest among all the products our company sells."

That said, Gerace did acknowledge that BlackBerry Tour devices did experience trackball issues when they were first released. He said that his company "caught it pretty early and we didn't sell many with the bad trackball."

Gerace offered a biting response yet when I asked him about the accuracy of Eller's contention that Verizon is angry at RIM and will be strongly supporting a new Motorola device.

"That is blatantly not true," Gerace told me. "Just look around at our advertising. Does it look like we're not pushing the BlackBerry Tour?"

RIM did not immediately respond to requests for comment.… Read more

Poynt registers 1 million BlackBerry app downloads

Multiplied Media's local-search BlackBerry app Poynt hit the 1 million-download mark this week.

Poynt, which is similar to Yelp's local app for the iPhone, provides users with a series of local-search tools to help them find establishments in and around their area. They simply need to search for a specific location, and Poynt will display contact information and plot its position on a map. The app even provides directions on how to get there.

Unlike many of the local-search services currently available on mobile devices, Poynt also boasts people-search features, allowing users to find folks in their area.… Read more

The right direction

Editors' note: This is a First Take of a beta product, not a rated review.

Opera strikes out in a new direction with Opera Mini 5 beta, a rewritten version of its mobile browser for Java phones, like Sony Ericssons and even BlackBerrys. The beta is not only slicker looking, with a glossy visual treatment that focuses on icons instead of on text links, but it also appeared faster in our tests.

The Mini 5 beta browser carries over several features from the desktop version and from Opera Mobile, the offering for Windows Mobile and Symbian phones. These include features … Read more

Hands on with Brutal Legend, faces melted

Brutal Legend is the latest from legendary game designer Tim Schafer, who is responsible for such classics as Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. His latest adventure, undoubtedly the most mainstream yet, stars Jack Black as the voice of Eddie Riggs, a roadie for a metal band who finds himself transported to demonic, metal-infused world.

We got a chance to sit down with the near-final build of Brutal Legend in New York. Here's how the game is shaping up:

Jeff: Brutal Legend is a metal fan's absolute fantasy come true. The game is overflowing with references and jokes about the genre and is sure to lure in gamers on charm alone. Beneath the metal spikes and skulls lies a hack and slash action/adventure game, but it seems that the overall production value, soundtrack, and presentation might be the winners here.… Read more

Yahoo intros new iPhone and BlackBerry apps

Yahoo announced three new mobile applications Tuesday as the company continues to focus more on developing specific applications for the iPhone and other select smartphones like the BlackBerry.

The most widely publicized application to be announced Tuesday is Flickr for Mobile. This application is only available for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch. It's free from the iTunes App Store. And it allows users to upload, share, and tag photos and videos. Flickr already has a browser-based mobile app at

Yahoo also created two new mobile applications for a few BlackBerry models.

Yahoo Finance for Mobile … Read more

Western Digital shipping high-speed 2TB hard drive

After releasing relatively low-performance 2TB hard drives a few months ago, Western Digital announced Tuesday that it's now shipping high-performance versions of these top-capacity drives.

The new drives are the WD Caviar Black and the WD RE4. According to the company, the former is designed for desktops while the latter is suited for servers and network storage devices.

These two new hard drives are based on WD's 500GB-per-platter technology. They both combine 7200rpm spin speed, 64MB cache, dual-stage actuator technology, SATA 2 (3Gb/s) interface, and an integrated dual processor.

(Dual actuator technology is a head-positioning system with … Read more