Free Gwabbit for BlackBerry on the horizon

A free version of the Gwabbit contact management application for BlackBerry is expected to surface in the BlackBerry App World, and only in the App World, on Tuesday, December 8.

Good news for BlackBerry business users who are pinching pennies: a free version of the Gwabbit contact manager for BlackBerry is expected to surface in the BlackBerry App World--and only in the App World--on Tuesday, December 8. The current version of Gwabbit for BlackBerry costs $9.99 for a yearlong subscription.

Gwabbit (formerly Technicopia) came out with Gwabbit the BlackBerry app back in May 2009, as the mobile version of its Outlook e-mail add-on. Gwabbit scans incoming e-mail for a signature block. If it finds one, the software compares the contents to your address book contacts. If there's no previous match, or if it looks like there's been a change, Gwabbit will prompt you to add or update the contact.

We were impressed with the convenience Gwabbit gives business users who build up their contact lists from their smartphones. Moreover, we noted how effectively and quickly Gwabbit processed the e-mails, but only so long as the sender's contact details are conveniently organized in the signature block. Gwabbit lacks the sensitivity to pull possibly relevant details from elsewhere in the e-mail.

How could Gwabbit's publisher give away its $10-a-year product for free? By turning its users into viral marketers. Each time a user of the free product ingests new contact information, Gwabbit will e-mail an alert to let the contact know they've been added.

While the publishers spin Gwabbit's e-mail alerts as a benefit to those being added, it's more likely that contacts may view the notification spam as an annoyance, making you--or the new service--rather unpopular. But if you're saving $10 a year, you may not really care.

The timing is key for Gwabbit for BlackBerry, the release of which will come ahead of sometimes-competitor Xobni's forthcoming BlackBerry beta app. Unlike Gwabbit, which gathers phone numbers, titles, and other identifying details of a contact, Xobni takes the approach of creating a dynamic, searchable list of anyone who's ever sent you an e-mail, or even been cited in one. It doesn't, however, automatically add the dossier to your BlackBerry address book. Xobni wants to reinterpret the need for one.

The freebie model also gives Gwabbit a leg up on Copy2Contact (formerly Anagram), a more direct rival that also links to your calendar and can pull information from text messages and search results.

According to Todd Miller, Gwabbit's CEO, Gwabbit will make its next mobile home on Android smartphones.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.