New BlackBerry Developer Tools Will Benefit Users

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At Research in Motion's BlackBerry Developer Conference Monday, the company made a slew of announcements that aim to boost the platform's appeal to developers. But more APIs, a better advertisement service and new Adobe and Eclipse toolsets don't seem too exciting to the average consumer. Fear not, faithful BlackBerry user--there are some enhancements that will directly benefit you. Read on:

New APIs

RIM launched a few new APIs to third-party developers including the ability to build push notifications into apps, an enhanced advertising and payment service and three location-based services. Most of these new APIs will be available to developers in the first half of 2010.

BlackBerry's Push Service API isn't new, but it was previously available only on core apps. Now that it is open to all third-party developers (and free), more applications can take advantage of its services. Developers can choose to have these notifications appear as alerts at the top of the BlackBerry home screen, as a badge on the actual app itself, or sent directly to the users' inbox.

The biggest perk for consumers from the new payment service is the ability to buy an app and have it charged to your carrier bill. That way, you can pay for your apps, service and data all at once. The new payment service also allows for in-app payments for subscriptions or unlocking levels in a game.

Adding the platform's solid location-based services, RIM announced three new services. When GPS fails, cell site geo-location estimates your phone's location based on cell tower triangulation. Reverse geo-coding then translates your phone's location to an actual address on a map. Lastly, travel time estimates how much time it will take to get from one location to another--a boon to users who heavily rely on their phone for driving directions. A beta version of reverse-geocoding is currently available in SDK 5.0 while travel time and cell site geo-location will be available in 2010.

OpenGL ES Support

Who says BlackBerrys are strictly business? The latest beta of BlackBerry Java SDK 5.0 (currently available via an update) will support OpenGL ES, a graphics API for 3D gaming. At the keynotes, Electronic Arts demonstrated their racing game "Need for Speed" on the Storm. While the BlackBerry might never be a threat to the iPhone in terms of mobile gaming, at least the platform is trying to keep up with its competitors.

BlackBerry Theme Studio 5.0

Soon you'll be able to spruce up your BlackBerry with better themes and widgets for purchase in the App World. BlackBerry Theme Studio 5.0 lets developers import Adobe Photoshop files to the BlackBerry Theme builder for richer graphics. They can also incorporate ringtones and even build screen transitions such as zooming, fading, etc. into a theme. Ringtones and screen transitions are only supported for phones running OS 5.0 or higher, however.

These new features might not be ground-breaking, but they are essential to the BlackBerry platform. It will be interesting to see how these new capabilities manifest and if BlackBerry can stay viable in the apps space.

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