Smartphones Now: Get more done with these third-party applications

smartphone.jpgsmartphones07_bug1.jpgThe whole idea of smartphones is that they should help to make your life easier. But sometimes it can be a daunting task to figure out which third-party applications are worth the time and money to install and use.

These eight great apps are easy to install, easy to use, and should help you be more productive from day to day.

Opera Mobile
Devices: Windows Mobile, Symbian

Browsing the web on your phone can be a somewhat enjoyable experience, believe it or not. If you have a Windows Mobile device like I do, you’ll definitely want to replace Pocket Internet Explorer as soon as possible. And great news for Symbian devices, you already have Opera Mobile as your default browser.

From the dynamic reformatting of web pages to faster-than-average tabbed browsing, Opera Mobile makes a good addition to any compatible smartphone. There’s a 30-day trial and then the software costs $24 to keep. Those looking for an even quicker, lighter version of Opera can try Opera Mini. It’s free and works on most Java-enabled devices.

Google Maps
Devices: J2ME, Palm, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian

Use your device’s built-in GPS chip to show your location on Google Maps. Or if you don’t have a GPS-enabled device, find your location anyway thanks to Google’s new "My Location" feature, which triangulates your position using nearby cell phone towers. Get directions, view live traffic conditions, and find nearby businesses easily and quickly. Best of all, it’s free.

Devices: Windows Mobile, Palm

Got a laptop? Got a smartphone with a data plan? Then you’ve got yourself a high speed modem. Install the PdaNet software on your computer and your smartphone and then connect your device via Bluetooth or USB to access the web on your laptop using your mobile data plan. It’s great for airports, coffee shops, in the car (not while driving, of course), and anywhere else you either can’t get a WiFi signal or don’t want to pay out the nose for hourly access. There’s a 30-day trial and then the software costs $34 to keep, which pays for itself in no time.

Missing Sync
Devices: Windows Mobile, Palm, BlackBerry

Mac users, meet your new best friend when it comes to synchronizing your information between your Mac and your Windows Mobile, Palm, or BlackBerry device. It’s especially useful for Windows Mobile. Can you believe that a Windows Mobile device wouldn’t be easy to synchronize with a non-Windows computer without the help of third-party software?

Sarcasm aside, Missing Sync allows you to synchronize your contacts, calendar, notes, memos, voice recordings, Office files, videos (it even transcodes them for you), photos, iTunes playlists, and more. While $40 might sound steep, the amount of time and trouble it’ll save you will seem well worth it.

Agile Messenger
Devices: Windows Mobile, Symbian

If you want anyone and everyone to be able to get ahold of you wherever you are, you’ll like Agile Messenger. You can keep in touch with your friends on MSN, ICQ, AOL, AIM, Google Talk, and Yahoo! Messenger without loading each separate program onto your mobile phone. Agile Messenger handles them all.

You can buy an all-in license for $44.95 or pay tri-monthly at $11.95.  

Devices: Windows Mobile

Sign up for a free LogMeIn account and discover the pure productivity bliss of being able to access your home or office PC from anywhere. Then discover it again by accessing it from your mobile phone. The free version allows you to view and manipulate your files while the $12.95-per-month Pro version allows you to transfer and synchronize files between multiple computers and your phone, print remotely, and more.

Devices: Windows Mobile

The ability to block unwanted calls is a feature that should be pretty simple and included with your phone’s plan, right? Well that’s not always the case. MagiCall blocks unwanted calls by sending a text message back to the individual’s phone saying something like "kindly go F yourself and stop calling me forever" and can also automatically delete incoming text messages from a troublesome texter.

There’s a week-long trial available and the full version costs $24.95 should you wish to keep it.

Devices: Windows Mobile, BlackBerry

Visual voicemail doesn’t just have to be an iPhone thing. With SimulSays, you can manage your voicemail messages as easily as e-mail messages, skipping directly to important ones and saving certain messages for later. You won’t have to call in to your voicemail system and skip past old messages just to get to the one you want to hear. You can also reply to voicemails by sending an e-mail, text message, or initiating a phone call. Service starts at $9.95 per month for 40 messages or there’s an unlimited plan available for $29.95 per month. You can try the service free for seven days.