BlackBerry tips and tricks: Get the most from applications

Al Sacco shares tips and tricks on how to get the most from BlackBerry applications, while at the same time ensuring those apps don't negatively affect your smartphone's performance.


Thanks to mobile software stores like Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry App World and Mobihand's App Store for BlackBerry, it's never been easier to obtain mobile applications for BlackBerry smartphones, whether you're shopping around on your handheld or via desktop computer. That's clearly a good thing for BlackBerry users. But in this case, it's possible to have too much of a good thing.

One of the downsides of RIM's BlackBerry OS: It provides users with a relatively small amount of on-device storage space for third-party software; installed BlackBerry applications must be stored within users' "application memory," which maxes out at a mere 256MB in the current generation of BlackBerry smartphones. (RIM's new BlackBerry Bold 9650 has 512MB of app memory, but it's not expected to be released until later this month.)

Download and install too many BlackBerry apps, especially large or system-intensive apps, and your formerly speedy smartphone will slow to a crawl quicker than you can spell "QWERTY."

Here are five tips and tricks to help ensure you're getting the most out of your BlackBerry and applications, without degrading your smartphone's overall performance.

Close Unused BlackBerry Applications

A quick and easy way to reduce undue strain on your BlackBerry smartphone is to make sure only the applications you're using at a given time are open and active. The BlackBerry is built for "multi-tasking," unlike certain popular smartphones - ahem, Apple, I'm looking at you--so it's okay to leave more than one app open at a time. But it's a very good habit to get used to closing apps as soon as you're done, so you don't find yourself "overloading" your BlackBerry by opening more apps without closing others.

Checking your BlackBerry Application Switcher is a simple and effective method of determining which applications are open on your device. To access the app switcher, simply depress your BlackBerry Menu key - located directly to the left of your trackball/trackpad - for a couple of seconds, until the app switcher appears on screen. With the app switcher visible, scroll left or right to see which apps are currently running on your device. Click on any app to open it, then hit Menu one more time for access to that specific app's "Exit" or "Close" function.

If you see an app in your BlackBerry Application Switcher, it's running. A group of core BlackBerry applications, including RIM's BlackBerry Browser, Phone, BlackBerry Messenger and Messages inbox, cannot be closed, and as such, you'll always see them in your app switcher.

Some third-party apps are designed to be left open at all times or their functionality becomes limited. For example, Google's Google Voice for BlackBerry application must be open for users to access its full feature-set. And a Twitter app like TweetGenius is also meant to be left open, at least while the user wants Twitter updates, so it's up to you to decide whether or not leaving such an app open is worth the associated device strain. You should base your individual decisions on how important it is to you to have a specific application available, as well as the effects that app has on your device performance.

In general, it's a good idea to close any apps you're not using constantly. And it's easy to identify all open apps and then close unnecessary software using your BlackBerry Application Switcher.

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