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Your guide to the free BlackBerry apps

Research in Motion wants to renew consumer confidence with free apps. So what exactly are they offering?

Photo: edans/Enrique Dans/Flickr

It seems as if Research in Motion faces a new Herculean challenge with each passing week. Given their most recent debacle, when millions of BlackBerry users worldwide suffered service outages last week, it appears their biggest task is restoring consumer confidence. With this in mind, RIM unveiled a strategy to appease customers and plug further losses of market share: free apps and a month of enhanced technical support.

So what are these BlackBerry apps on offer? In Monday’s press release, RIM listed twelve applications, ranging from games to a virtual assistant. The apps have a total value exceeding US$100. Starting today, the apps will be released over several weeks on Blackberry App World and will be available through year’s end. (So far only one app, Pro, has been released.) Many of the apps being offered are premium editions of software that are free in their most basic forms. RIM has mentioned that more free apps will be added to the list.

Here is a breakdown of some of the apps on offer, their initial prices and consumer ratings. (All information is from the BlackBerry App World site as of Wednesday morning). Prices are listed in U.S. currency. Pro
Regular price: $19.99
What it does: is made for commuters. It speaks incoming text messages and emails, allowing drivers to communicate hands-free. You can also respond to text messages by voice, among other functions.
BlackBerry App World rating: 3 stars out of five (based on 438 reviews)

Photo Editor Ultimate
Regular price: $1.99
What it does: Given the app’s name, its functions are pretty obvious. There are a multitude of photo editing options on this app, including a lengthy list of effects and colour filters.
BAW rating: 4.5 stars (based on 141 reviews)

Nobex Radio Premium
Regular price: $9.99
What it does: The developer says users can listen to content from over 16,000 radio stations in over 100 countries with this app. You can also access playlists from roughly 3,000 of those stations. Streaming is done through Wi-Fi or your carrier’s network.
BAW rating: 3 stars (based on 23 reviews)

Vlingo Plus – Virtual Assistant
Regular price: $19.99
What it does: Vlingo is a voice-activated personal assistant. Sound familiar? Reviews are mixed for this app, largely depending on what version is being reviewed and for what operating system.
BAW rating: 4 stars (based on 203 reviews)

Documents To Go Premium Edition
Regular price: $14.99
What it does: You can view, edit and create PowerPoint, Word and Excel documents on your BlackBerry device, as well as view PDF files, with this app. The consumer reviews are tepid, with some users saying the price is too steep for what it provides, while others reported errors while trying to download the app.
BAW rating: 2 stars (based on 95 reviews)

Shazam Encore
Regular price: $5.99
What it does: Can’t remember the name of a catchy tune on the radio? Shazam can help. Whenever you need music info, this app will take an acoustic fingerprint of the song in question and (hopefully) identify the artist, song title and other relevant information. Shazam can do other things, but its identification function is its key selling point.
BAW rating: 3.5 stars (based on 397 reviews)

Various games
The list: Sims 3, Bejeweled, N.O.V.A., Texas Hold’em Poker 2 and Bubble Bash 2 will become available in the coming weeks. Some of these games come in multiple versions—for instance, N.O.V.A. has an HD version that retails for $2 more than a previous release—and the RIM press statement doesn’t specify which versions will be free to customers.

(Note: Given that RIM isn’t releasing these apps en masse, some information—like the version of the app being released or the retail price—could change. One future freebie, iSpeech Translator Pro, is currently not listed on the BlackBerry App World site.)