The BlackBerry from Research In Motion is the most popular line of mobile phones in part because they tend to be easier to type on than most other phones. We e-mail addicts love them.
But while millions of BlackBerry users have been mastering the art of thumb typing, two companies have developed sophisticated technologies that replace typing with voice commands.
The services, called Vlingo and Jott, are free of charge, easy to use and together can utterly transform how you use your phone.
Vlingo is a multipurpose voice-command system compatible with the BlackBerry Pearl, BlackBerry Curve and BlackBerry 8800 series handsets.
Here's where to download Vlingo. After installing, it's a good idea to open the application and select the Options bar at the bottom of the screen. This is where you can associate Vlingo with one of the side buttons on your phone, switch the default search engine from Yahoo to Google, for example, and change other personalization settings.
There are just a few more things you need to know about using Vlingo:
When Vlingo makes a mistake while typing, it retains alternative words. By hovering the selector over the mistaken words, Vlingo provides the alternatives. Just choose the right one if it's there. Otherwise, you'll have to -- gasp! -- re-type the word.
Because Vlingo repeats what it heard, you don't really have to look at the phone for basic use.
Vlingo by default adds a "tag line," basically a short text-and-link pitch for their service, to the end of e-mails and texts, but you can easily turn that off using the Options feature.
Recognition isn't perfect. But the application learns over time, adapting to both how to pronounce words and how you express things, according to the company.
You can add some punctuation by saying the name of the punctuation mark. For example, if you say, "Tomorrow question mark you must be joking exclamation point" your message will say, "Tomorrow? You must be joking!"
Jott is a free service that lets you send text with a simple phone call. You set up contacts, including yourself, at the Jott Web site. Put Jott's phone number on your phone's speed dial. When you call, a recorded voice asks, "Who do you want to Jott?" You say a contact'ws name, then say whatever you want to say. A text "transcript" of what you said is sent to that contact, along with a Web link to the audio. When you send Jotts to other humans, it's like both e-mail and voicemail together.
Jott also offers a free application for BlackBerry users. Jott for BlackBerry is a relatively limited utility that doesn't even add an icon to your phone. It simply adds two menu items to your BlackBerry e-mail application: "Reply with Jott" and "Reply All with Jott." To use Jott for BlackBerry, you'll need a regular Jott account.
Jott for BlackBerry is compatible with the exact same list of devices that Vlingo is: the Pearl, Curve and 8800 series.
Here's where to get the Jott account. To download Jott for BlackBerry, visit www.jott.com/bb via your phone's browser.