The LED notification light is a staple on BlackBerry smartphones. That blinking red light, illuminating when a message comes through, prompting you to reach for your device and check your inbox. Then came apps that allowed you to change the color of the LED light for different types of messages. They've been around since BlackBerry OS days and when BlackBerry 10 landed, we started to see them crop up too. However, until the headless feature came along, allowing them to work in the background, many people opted to postpone using the apps. Now that the headless option is here, there have been a few more LED notification apps to hit BlackBerry World. We thought we'd do up a comparison post of the most popular ones and see who comes out on top. Or at least which one gives us the better options and features.
For this post we will be looking at BeBuzz (v126.96.36.1992), HUB++ (v188.8.131.52), Watcher (v184.108.40.206), Powertools (v220.127.116.11). Also note, this comparison is for BlackBerry 10 smartphones.
When you first launch BeBuzz, you are taken through a very quick initial setup process, once done you can start customizing the LED notification for different messages and accounts. You can add customize the LED for individual contacts, apps and email accounts. There is no need to wait for a message to come through before editing the LED notification. As is the case with some of the other apps.
The process of setting things up in HUB++ is a bit of a mixture. Straight out of the box, so to speak, you can assign LED colors to e-mail accounts, SMS messages, BBM, calendar and calls. But for the likes of Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and LinkedIn, they can't be assigned off the bat. What happens is HUB++ monitors these notifications into the Hub and then prompts you to assign it to the relevant social media type within the app. Once you have defined the account type you can then assign a LED color.
Once you've installed Watcher and opened it up, you're pretty much ready to go. Just start choosing what elements of the notification you want to edit, such as the LED, profile, vibration and then select the accounts you want to customize from there.
The clean look of Watcher makes it easy to navigate and set things up.
Powertools doesn't go through an initial setup like you do with BeBuzz but when you start adding LED customization to e-mail messages you do get prompted to turn off the sound, vibration and LED notification for that account via the main OS Settings. It's also similar to HUB++ in that when you receive a BBM message or notification from an app that does alerts (Twitter, Facebook, iGrann, etc), you will receive a Hub notification to setup the LED notification from there. Just as with e-mail messages, you have to turn off the sound, vibration and LED notifications via the main device Settings.
Level of customization
There are lots of different accounts and messages that you can assign a color LED to with BeBuzz, including BBM. There's also a wide variety of colors to choose from. There are solid colors, disco combinations and other color combinations to choose from.
As well as assigning an LED color to each of your accounts you can also add a specific sound alert and vibration. You can select the number of times it would vibrate too, just to add further customization.
Apart from just being able to customize notification alerts for individual contacts you can create custom rules too. For example, you can create rules for certain subject matters. You can also set message actions too, like marking it read, flag it, etc.
HUB++ has the same range of solid colors as BeBuzz, though the range of combinations is not as much. However, you can create your own color combinations. There is also the ability to customize the sound alert for each account, as well as choose a vibrate pattern.
You can create a rule or create custom notifications for individual contacts, too, just like you can with BeBuzz. You can also set an LED for when you have when you have no cellular coverage, when the battery is charging, when battery is full and when you have Wi-Fi coverage.
Watcher is the simplest of the bunch. There aren't many color choices. You basically just have the solid colors to choose from. There's no disco option either, except for incoming calls where you have the option to have the LED flash with all the colors. You can set the blink speed of the LED notification though.
There is no way to create custom rules or customization for individual contacts with Watcher. However, it does offer a message and call block feature. You can block e-mails from certain domains, specific e-mail address as well as create keyword rules. You can also block SMS messages too.
Watcher also includes customizing the LED for cellular signal and Bluetooth connectivity.
Powertools has a lot of options just like BeBuzz and HUB++. There are color combinations you can choose from, not just one solid color. You can set the Blink Duration, too. By default, 500 times is selected but you can choose your preference from the dropdown menu. Powertools also allows you to create custom rules, too.
As mentioned earlier, when setting up apps or e-mail notifications you have to turn off the sound, vibration and LED in the main OS Settings menu, so if you want to have a sound alert or vibration for that particular account you have to set that up through Powertools. There are some default sounds provided within the app but you can use your own ones too.
I've been a BeBuzz user since BlackBerry OS and I'm a little biased towards the app. There's enough variety in the options to customize many different aspects of you notifications and you don't have to mess about with the native notifications to get going. There is also the ability to add sounds and/or vibration to your notifications too.
Unlike the other apps in this comparison, BeBuzz is solely an LED notification app. But it's a pretty solid one at that. It works well for me and assigning an LED to an account is straightforward. BeBuzz does offer a Message Actions feature where it will automatically perform actions when you receive a message from a particular contact. These actions include marking a message as read, setting it as a priority, flagging it, or even deleting it.
HUB++ was one of the first LED notification apps to launch on BlackBerry 10. It didn't start out being an LED notification app but it was a welcome addition. Setting up isn't too bad as you can set the LED light for e-mails and BBM but for social media apps I find the account detection system not as great as that on Powertools. It detects the account but due to the fact that you have to be the one to assign the account, I have found I can often assign it incorrectly if a few notifications from different social media accounts come through around the same time.
HUB++ also goes beyond LED notifications, it offers notification profiles, where you can set different alerts for different times of the day. There is also a flip profile too though this one just makes it go to silent, it cannot be customized as you can with Watcher.
Watcher doesn't have many bells and whistles but it's a nice, clean app. It's unfortunate that you can't set an LED notification for apps like Twitter and Facebook but at least it includes BBM. Setting everything up a simple and there isn't a need for you to wait for a notification into the Hub before you can setup an LED.
Watcher does more than just LED notifications too, you can also set a Scheduled Profile. You can set your device to switch to the silent or vibrate profile during certain times of the day. There is also something called Flip Profile. If you turn this option on your device will switch to the profile you select when you lay your device face-down on the table. Note if you have the Flip Profile on it overrides the Scheduled Profile if you flip your device face-down. There is also a Holster Profile which does the same thing but obviously switches profile when you slip it into a holster, though this does not affect the Scheduled Profile if turned on.
I found it a bit tiresome that you would have to wait for a notification to come through from apps before you could setup the LED notification for that particular app. I would just prefer to be able to set them up from the get go. Another thing that bothers me is that I have to turn off the native sounds in the main OS Notifications Settings. For some accounts I use the default BlackBerry 10 alerts and these are not accessible via Powertools. Sometimes I found the sound alert didn't always sync with a message arriving into the Hub.
However, Powertools does go further than being just an LED app, you can create custom profiles too. Just like with Watcher and HUB++ where you can have your sound profile change during certain hours of the day. Powertools also allows this via geofencing. You can also set holster profiles too. It's just a bit of a hassle to get everything setup but once you're all done it is a great app. It can do many things in one place, rather than having to have many apps to do different things. You can set event sounds e.g. sounds when you lock/unlock the screen, charge the device etc. There's even a wallpaper changer within the app too.
Which app comes out on top?
First thing to note is that all these apps are headless so if you are running BlackBerry OS 10.2.1 and above you don't need to have the app open in an Active Frame for it to function. However, if you're running an OS lower than 10.2.1, the app will need to stay open in order to work properly.
While all these apps are LED notification apps, some offer more customization than others and also offer more features than just being able to customize the LED notification. Which one you choose will come down to personal preference. If all you're looking for is an LED app BeBuzz is a good choice. It has plenty of options and your have access to all accounts once you're setup. If you want something simple I would go for Watcher. I like it more than I thought I would and I like the Flip Profile. It's only downfall is that it does not include apps like Twitter and Facebook.
Powertools and HUB++ are very similar. Even when it comes to setting up. You have to first receive a notification for some accounts before you can set an LED notification for it. Though I do find that Powertools does it better as it tells you the account for which you are setting it up for. With HUB++ you have to select which account the notification is for and sometimes when notifications come in from different accounts about the same time, you're not really sure which one it is. If you don't mind this slightly long-winded process of setting things up any one of these two are great choices if you want more. Both apps have lots of other extras from call blocking, geofencing, profiles. Powertools, however, does offer a bit more than HUB++.
Pricing may ultimately be the deciding factor for some people. So, let's take a look at that too. BeBuzz costs $2.99, it doesn't offer more than LED notifications but it is highly customizable and has been a favourite since BlackBerry OS days. Watcher costs $1.99, it's simple, clean and does the job well. It offers some extras too, such as call and SMS blocking as well as Customizable Profiles. HUB++ costs $2.99, it offers a lot of customization as well extra features like Watcher. Powertools costs $3.99. It's the most expensive of the bunch but it also offers the most features overall, it really does combine features you can find in many different apps into one place.
As for my own personal preference? Up until writing up this comparison post I had been using BeBuzz but after using all of them I'm very fond of Watcher. Mainly for it's clean layout but also for the Flip Profile. But because I want a custom LED light for Twitter and Facebook I'm still going to use BeBuzz. Although, Powertools be the better option as it packs many apps in to one place and that's what I want right now. It's just a bit of an issue for me when the sound alert doesn't quite sync up when it hits the Hub. Otherwise I'd be using it over BeBuzz.
What is your app of choice for LED notifications? Did this post help you decide? Sound off in the comments.