Best BlackBerry apps of 2009

Rounding up the 16 finalists in the BlackBerry Developer Challenge

With the BlackBerry Developer Conference in full swing this week, we decided that it would be a great time to look at the 16 top BlackBerry smartphone applications that Research in Motion has chosen as finalists for its BlackBerry developer challenge. The 16 apps selected run a wide gamut of functions, from productivity applications to social media applications to games. In this slideshow we'll break down each app by its function, its price and its basic features.

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7digital music store

The lowdown: Think of it as the BlackBerry equivalent of iTunes. Much like its famed counterpart, 7digital lets you browse and download music directly to your BlackBerry and import playlists that already exist on your device.

Fierce Towers

The lowdown: In this strategy game, your job is to set up a series of defense towers in a field to fend off marauding hordes of robots that, uh, want to take over your field for some reason. The rhyme and the reason don't particularly matter, though, as you'll have too much fun watching things explode on your phone screen to care about plot points.

Application: Expense Manager

The lowdown: This app is designed for frequent business travelers who tire of carrying endless receipts around in their pockets for days on end. The application allows users to file expenses as they go by entering them as data points in a CSV file that can be easily converted to a Microsoft Excel file. The app also lets you send expenses as you go, thus increasing the likelihood that you'll receive timely reimbursement for what you spend.

Vision for YouTube

The lowdown: One of the iPhone's key advantages over most BlackBerry devices is its video display. The goal of Metova's Vision for YouTube application is to optimize video formats for BlackBerry devices by giving users the option of formatting their YouTube videos as either 3GP or MP4 files. Vision currently works for BlackBerry Storm , Bold and Curve 8900 devices.

David

The lowdown: Everyone hates overage charges. But fear not! This application will monitor your wireless voice usage and send you updates in real time when you cross certain thresholds. The app also tracks your data and SMS usage and stacks them up against what your monthly wireless plans allow. You can use the app for free for the first two months and then pay $3.99 if you want to keep using it beyond the initial trial period.

Sid Meier's Pirates

The lowdown: Yar! There's nothing like plundering and pillaging from the comfort of your own BlackBerry. This game, originally designed by Sid Meier of Civilization fame, is a role-playing game that lets you attack other ships, engage in high-stakes sword duels and collect booty. And unlike real pirates, you won't be struck with scurvy – it's a true win-win.

Handmark

The lowdown: One of the better free apps on the market, the CBS News app not only gives you access to CBS' national news stories but also to content from all locally-owned CBS news stations across the country.

Market Simplified

The lowdown: Now that the stock market is no longer in a death spiral, it might be time to think about investing again. As an application, Market Simplified aims to help users manage their stock portfolios by letting them make trades, view market news and get streaming stock quotes over their BlackBerry devices. One word of warning: reviewers have blasted the app for its apparent inability to run on BlackBerry Tour devices.

Wicked Blog App

The lowdown: Finally! This app is a simple and easy way for users to write blog entries with their BlackBerry devices. Custom-designed for WordPress users, Wicked Blog App not only lets users update blogs with text but also gives them options for image formatting and overall page layout. The app also integrates with Twitter and supports Wi-Fi connections.

e-Mobile Today Professional Edition

The lowdown: This all-in-one personal information app boasts several key features, including a missed-calls viewer that lets you return missed calls by clicking on the highlighted number; an appointment calendar that gives you four days' worth of upcoming appointments on your home screen; a task manager that gives you three days' worth of upcoming tasks on your home screen; and an e-mail reader that lets you see message details from your home screen.

Unsynced Music Player

The lowdown: Currently unsynced is a bread-and-butter music managing application that lets users create playlists, locate music files on their devices and see album art for songs as they play. BlackBerry says that Unsynced is currently "working on a host of other upcoming features" for the app, so it's likely to gain more distinctive qualities further down the road.

AFP Mobile News

The lowdown: Similar to the CBS app, but for the Associated Press instead. The AFP app adds some new wrinkles to the formula, such as the ability to customize the app by choosing from 23 categories of news and daily slideshows featuring the best pictures from AP photographers.

Astraware Solitaire

The lowdown: Astraware Solitaire aims to be a one-stop application for single-player card games and has combined such favorites as Solitaire, FreeCell, Pyramid and Yukon. At the very least, this app ensures that you'll never be bored during a long flight again.

FileScout

The lowdown: FileScout is how you manage your zips, txts, xmls, pngs and other file types from your mobile device. Features include the ability to copy, cut and paste text files; the ability to both zip and unzip files; and even the ability to delete unwanted pre-installed wallpapers, videos and ringtones to help free up memory. As a comprehensive file manager, this is one of the best around.

ProOnGo Expense Beta with Receipt Reader

The lowdown: Much like the Expense Manager, this app is designed to help professionals keep track of their expenses on their business trips. The coolest feature is that it lets you take pictures of receipts and then load the details automatically onto your expense reports. The app also lets you subscribe to a service that will back up pictures of your receipts online, thus eliminating the need for you to carry around several slips of paper while on your trip.

ShoZu

The lowdown: This is a social media aggregator that specializes in letting users upload their photos and videos to a wide range of social networking and media sites, including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Wordpress and standard e-mail. The app also lets you update your Twitter status while you're uploading live photos and videos to help provide context for what you're filming or photographing.

Which BlackBerry apps catch your eye? Are these apps worthy of RIM's acclaim? Or can you think of others that got snubbed? Let us know in the comments!

Related stories:

15 nifty BlackBerry apps for IT pros

10 cool BlackBerry games