This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.
When it comes to smartphones, Apple’s iPhone usually gets most of the love. However, for the business-minded tech-savant, sometimes there’s nothing better than RIM’s workstation workhorse, the BlackBerry. BlackBerrys may not have the fancy apps or retina-display graphics, but they do pack a lot of functionality into one little handheld device.
To help you get the most of your mini-workstation, we’ve picked out five ways that you can maximize the productivity of your BlackBerry. Whether you want to keep your battery running forever, need to boost your reception or want to turn your phone into a hot spot, these gadgets and Gator Accessories will optimize your BlackBerry.
In the comments below, let us know your favorites or share your own tips for getting the most of your phone.
1. Extend Battery Life
There are few things more frustrating for the mobile savant than when your phone’s battery dies in the middle of an important task. Anyone using their phone for business is prone to see the battery get drained and fast. Packing an extra battery, available through BlackBerry’s site can be one solution, but for those who don’t want to constantly be swapping between chargers, you might want to look into an emergency charger.
While wireless powermats may be the new trend, it’s hard to beat the reliability of old-fashioned, plug-in chargers like the power! Dual 1850, which at $59.99, can charge two devices back to 100% power. Energizer also offers two slim charging options for $19.99.
2. Protect It
If you run a new business, odds are you’re not sitting behind a desk every minute of every day. Cases are usually overlooked by business types, but cracking your screen or snapping your battery can ruin your day if you’re out in the field. BlackBerry’s site has an impressive range of cases that will make your phone look cool, but they may not be able to protect your phone from serious damage. BlackBerry’s leather designs offer the best protection, partly because they totally cover your phone. For fans looking to actually use their phone, check out OtterBox’s Defender Case or Commuter series. Tougher and more durable than the standard mobile skins, they help protect more of your phone while letting you actually use it.
3. Bluetooth Headset
Everyone has seen those people with Bluetooth headsets seemingly talking to themselves. While they are sometimes ridiculed, handsfree headsets can be a huge boon when you’re in the middle of work or need to scribble down notes in the middle of a call. A Bluetooth headset also makes it possible to conduct calls safely while driving. There are a ton of cheap options out there that can get the job done — and admirably so. For a top of the line option, though, check out Plantronics’ Savor M1100 Bluetooth headset. For $99.99 it is definitely one of the most expensive headsets you can buy — the call quality, simple design and integration with advanced cloud technology make it the Ferrari of business headsets.
4. Increase Reception
Reception is never a bad thing when you’re talking about mobile. While some service carriers can boast 4G speeds or better coverage networks, none of that matters if you go under a bridge or are in a random reception dead zone. While there are unfortunately no super-portable options for boosting your reception, there are a couple ways to make sure your phone gets as many bars as it can. Wilson electronics offers several options, the most portable being the MobilePro reception booster for $199.99.
5. Tethering and Hot Spots
Love your 3G but wish you could either increase the speed or spread the mobile love to your netbook? Tethering your BlackBerry or using it as a modem can help you turn your BlackBerry into a mobile hotspot. You can head over to BlackBerry’s FAQ page for a rundown on how to turn your phone into a tethered modemand a list of devices that can do it. Anyone looking for an easy route can download an app like Tether. After a seven-day free trial, you’ll have to drop $49.99 to keep the service.
BONUS: Business Apps
While BlackBerry is not known for its apps, a list like this wouldn’t be complete without some high-powered mobile apps to soup up the inside of your BlackBerry. Check out our list of 10 Must-Have BlackBerry Apps for Small Business for apps to help you take notes, connect with clients or manage your contacts.
Disclosure: Research in Motion is a sponsor of the Mashable Awards