Talking BlackBerry Encyclopedia
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| | A General Rant from a Blackberry Lover/Veteran
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Blackberries I've carried: 7130E, 8703E, 8830 'World Edition', 8130 Pearl, 8330 Curve, 9530 Storm, 9630 Tour.
I'm not a Blackberry hater by any means, but I feel the need to get off my chest a number of frustrations I've had with these devices of late as a VZW rep who has to deal with this stuff on a day to day basis.
First, I'd like to say that I both love and hate the Blackberry security model. I love it because it IS secure, but I really, really hate it when I sell a Blackberry to an employee of a company that intends to put this personal user's phone on a BES server. Your average consumer thinks it's necessary to 'get their email', and it's not. For about 99% of my customers, BIS is fine for their needs and they don't really need BES enhancements. They don't realize that the freedom to use their own phone (that they bought) in the way they want on the service *they pay for* can and most likely will be severely restricted. They won't be able to download apps they want, they may not be able to use the browser, usage can be tracked and monitored, etc. I understand that many industries actually do require this level of security, but it makes the pit of my stomach turn a little when I see examples of how an individual's privacy can be compromised on their personal cell because they activated it on their company's BES. I do my best to explain what will happen once the handset's BES-activated to my customers but many of them aren't tech-qualified to really 'get it' or it's already taken place. Most of them just want their email and don't know what they're really getting into when they put their phone on the chopping block. In this economy, I've dealt with many former employees lately who need liberation from IT policies that don't go away (requiring command-line nonsense from JL Commander). I personally feel that if an employer can have this level of control over a phone, they should be providing it and paying the bills, or BES activation should come with some sort of legal document to be signed by the phone owner that explains exactly what is happening to their personal phone. I know some here will think I'm being a little overzealous, but I really do deal with customers - some angry - coming to me wondering why the phone they bought and pay monthly service for for can't do this or that thing that it's advertised to do, and I have to say 'go talk to your IT guy at your company'... you get the picture. Which leads me to my next rant:
Who do you go to when there's a problem? When a customer of mine has an issue, they come to me. I have to figure out where the problem is. The problem may be with our service. The problem may be due to a nationwide Blackberry outage. The problem may be due to a BES problem. The problem may be due to a defective handset.
First I apply a series of basic troubleshooting procedures, and if the problem's not obvious, what follows is a flurry of phone calls to my own tech support department, a few dozen google searches, a frustrating phone call to some random IT guy that manages the BES for the customer's company (which usually requires a half-hour of phone calls to identify and track down the guy, who then claims that there can't *possibly* be a problem on his end, he's a GOD OF TECH, and we can't have him looking bad in front of his client, it's gotta be VZW or RIM at fault!) So naturally I'm limited as to what I can do for the customer, because I can't cross certain lines that would step in the BES world's toes.
Then there's the fact that your typical Blackberry error is either cryptic or unidentifiable. A service might just stop working - like no email going in and out or the web browser failing to access any web pages - and there's no helpful error messages to clue you into the problem. Is there a failure to connect to the data network? A general BIS outage, meaning data connection's okay but the BB network isn't? A failure to connect to a BES server? Some IT policy setting? Who knows? There's no sort of helpful error dialogue that would clarify where the problem lies, which forces one to resort to a very arduous series of troubleshooting tricks that might include wiping a handset and still not resolving the problem. The other side of the coin is when you do get an error message. It's usually something along the lines of 'APP ERROR 503' or the like. App error 503. Okay... I guess I'll just google that then, I say. What I usually find are pages upon pages of people posting in forums, 'WHAT IS APP ERROR 503!?' because there doesn't seem to be a good, comprehensive resource that a dude can turn to in order to find a simple answer as to what's wrong. I'll have to drift through 20-30 pages of random posts around the internet (and I'm pretty good with the Googling, trust me) before I find a real lead on what the problem is. The thing is, the answer is usually provided by some user who figured out what the problem is themselves after hours or days of troubleshooting, not from an authoritative source.
Next point: Integration and synchronization. Blackberry desktop manager, how I loathe thee. Completely counterintuitive to use. Setting it up to sync with a user's PIM of choice is like trying to double-guess Gary Kasparov in a game of chess. Menu options are cryptic incomplete sentences and it's hard to figure out what enabling an option really does without having a complete understanding of both Blackberry architecture and the workings of Outlook/Lotus/whatever. Make a mistake, and you've just accidentally overwritten something or make the format of a contact entry unmanageable. Why, Jesus, why can't I use DM to simply take all the data on my Blackberry and export it to vCard and similar formats? For that matter, why can't I just see my Blackberry data within DM itself? Why does DM not have a handy 'Contacts' button where I can see and edit all my contacts right there, within the program? What if I don't own or use Outlook at all? I personally don't use Outlook or any other PM. I should be able to plug my phone into my computer, load up Desktop Manager, and see/edit my contacts, memos, calendar, etc all within that program. RIM has had YEARS to implement this, and the existence of free programs like IPD Viewer that let you view (unencrypted) backup files prove that it would be trivial to implement. For that matter, users on BIS should be able to log into the BIS site where they currently manage their email accounts and be able to see/edit all that data there, because it should sync with the BIS account wirelessly. Which leads me to my next rant:
I can't tell you how many times I've dealt with someone who bought or was given someone's old Blackberry, activated it on their number, and started receiving emails and BBMs intended for the previous owners of the device. Doesn't matter if the device has been wiped and is now on a new phone number - the BIS service is tied to the device's PIN. This has scary implications because your average customer doesn't realize this. An extra authentication step is NECESSARY in this situation. Phone number changed? STOP BIS SERVICE. Phone's been wiped? STOP BIS SERVICE. As a bonus, the new owner of the handheld can't add new email addresses or do ANYTHING about the problem on their own without contacting their carrier and having the BIS account associated with the device deleted.
The last point I'm going to make is the touchiest and will probably get me the most flak. I generally think that the reliability of these devices has gone sharply downhill over the years in both hardware and software departments. Blackberries built their reputation on being rock-solid reliable, but over the last couple years we've been inundated with insufficient memory problems resulting in complete data loss or phones that sport a perpetual hourglass, or phones that get software updates pushed to them that render the phone inoperative until reflashed, losing all data (I'm looking at you, Tour. I've personally had to reload the OS on at least 50 Tours - I'm not exaggerating - that died when the 5.0 OS was pushed to the phone). If BIS users had their contact info, at the very least, backed up to their BIS account somehow, it wouldn't be the end of the world when this happened, but I've been on the receiving end of red-faced customers screaming spittle into my face because they lost lost 400 contacts, the next 3 months worth of appointments, etc. Official OS updates that do get successfully pushed out will have obvious glaring problems, like the complete inability to text someone who sent you an MMS. Yes, really, it's one I've seen about a dozen cases of in the last month. Someone sends you an MMS, and suddenly, you can't text them, at all. Solution? Roll back the OS to a previous version. Makes me wanna bang my head against a wall because there's no easy way for an average user to figure out the solution. The update got pushed to them OTA, so while that was easy, there's no easy way to go back without doing a hefty amount of research and downloading, so I get to deal with it instead, and each one of these problems takes roughly a half hour of my time, on average. Even if they did find out the solution, what if they don't have a computer with DM, etc... you get the picture.
Anyway, my thread title describes me as a BB lover and veteran, and for the most part, I am. I understand Blackberry's role in the world and what it can do that other devices/ecosystems can't. And despite my rant above, I still sell many of them because they're the best at what they do in many ways.
But for myself? I've been on Android since November. All my contacts and calendar entries are synced with my Google account. I can edit them there and the phone is updated accordingly. I can export my contacts to my SD card directly or export my contacts and calendar from Gmail to my computer and import them into any program I like, or Google Sync (for the desktop) will handle that syncing for me with most popular programs. Or I can just use Gmail to view/edit that stuff directly from the web. I know this sort of thing won't compete with BES, but it's a far more friendly alternative to BIS users. If something stops working on my phone, it's far, far easier to troubleshoot and isolate than a Blackberry. If I need to wipe my phone for any reason, my data - and apps! - are all re-downloaded to the device upon re-initialization, or even onto my replacement device, if I had to do a warranty or insurance swap.
I'm not posting this to say 'ANDROID RULEZ, BLACKBERRY DROOLZ,' I'm pointing out places I'd like to see RIM improve. I was blind to many of these issues before I switched devices, and now that I'm on the outside looking in, the limitations and frustrations of the Blackberry ecosystem are more apparent, especially since the frequency of support issues has only increased over the years.
I will still recommend Blackberries to the users that need them.
Anyway... big sigh, got it off my chest. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far.
Last edited by SpectreBlofeld : 06-25-2010 at 01:52 AM.