The upgrade to the 5.0 system software on my BlackBerry Tour 9630 brought with it a new icon on the home screen. It read, simply, "Social Beat." Ever the curious one, I clicked it.
(Now, this is the spot where you pause for a moment, because the app wasn't actually on my phone. Verizon had given me the icon, which would now load the app, and then it would be on my phone. So please just imagine for yourself the time spent watching the progress bar fill. If you'd like music, feel free to hum something catchy. I'll wait.)
After the download, I clicked the icon again with far more satisfying results. Social Beat turns out to be an app that consolidates Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google Talk, and RSS feeds into a single unified stream of information. Now I've seen other social media programs that do this, but I've not yet seen one that also lets me choose from among my favorite tech news sources (Engadget, Gizmodo, and CNET, to name a few).
I find myself leaving the phone in Social Beat almost all the time now, and picking it up to periodically check on things throughout the day. It's Facebook integration is actually faster and smoother than the BlackBerry Facebook app (it doesn't do everything that the FB app does, really it just handles status updates and comments - but that turns out to be all I really care about from Facebook). And I'm pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy feeling as though I'm keeping abreast of the tech news. This is a necessary thing, you see, because I happen to be "The Geek They Know" for a whole bunch of my friends, and they don't take it well when they ask me if I've heard about some new gadget or gizmo and receive a blank stare in return.
Social Beat is from iSkoot. It's completely free. However, at the present time, it runs only on BlackBerry smartphones and exclusively on the Verizon network. Hopefully this will expand soon, so the rest of you can also enjoy keeping up with ... well, everything, in an almost effortless manner.