Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Beware the Blackberry

This is a warning for all those who buy a Blackberry (especially through Orange) for business use but on their own account. If you expect it to hook into your work's email be careful. If you think you are going to get Push email also be careful.

I really wanted an iphone, but as I was starting a new job with KickApps it was recommended that I use a BB due to the volume of email and they had a Blackberry Enterprise server service. Although the iphone is sex on a stick and I prefer it, the Blackberry is very good and the keyboard is a bit faster, just not gadget porn like the iphone.

I spent ages trying to buy the right one. Selecting the device was pretty straight forward, Blackberry’s site does a good job, but then you have the hell of trying to find the right tariff and the right device. It was not pretty. What I found was that none of the phone stores had a clue and some of them basically lied or made stuff up. Exceptions were the Carphone Warehouse in Esher and one of the Orange stores in Guildford. The guy at the Orange store in Guildford was amazing, but it was too late as I had already bought. He’s now moved to Reigate or Redhill or somewhere.

I chose the 8320 as I wanted wifi and a full size keyboard. The alternative choice was the 8820 which is bigger doesn’t have a camera but has sat nav.

First thing I discovered was you can’t use the wifi for email, the idea was that I could de-risk overruns on email costs when I was in the office, but no deal on that! (not much point in having the wifi). The other issue with the wifi on Orange is that they have this calls through WIFI tech called UMA. It's supposed to work only with an Orange Router on Orange Broadband (which I don't have) but it keeps cutting in and all hell happens with my calls when it does. Try explaining that to a call center.

So Email will always go through the phone, not through wifi. email is also separate from data in most tariffs on Blackberries. On an iphone you get calls and data, the data includes email (sensible). On a Blackberry you get calls, data and email. Therefore beware tariffs that talk only about data as data is not email, they are separate (on Blackberry). I chose Orange as I needed a really inclusive tariff for calls and email was £7.50 extra. No inclusive data (I think I get half a mega byte a month or something stupid). All of the carriers have really different tariffs, so it is really tough to compare.

So step one there is email and data, Then there are different types of email. They are BIS, BES and Desktop.

I haven’t used desktop, but it needs to sit on your computer all the time picking up your mail and forwarding it to you. Not sure you need it if you use BIS and if you have a laptop which you carry with you it won’t be forwarding your mail while it’s in your bag.

BIS you get with most carriers. They call it email. You pay for an amount (Orange is £7.50 for 6MB, and they say you will never use it all as it’s compressed, you will if you open alot of attachments) It will pick up POP3 IMAP and Exchange HTTP (which I haven’t managed to get working) but it ain’t “push” as popularised in all Blackberry marketing. It collects your mail just like any other mail program on a regular interval and then pushes it to you. So all this stuff about push with Blackberry is a myth (if you buy your own). So what this means is that if you are buying a Blackberry because it has this cool push email thing, it doesn’t unless you are connected to a corporate mail server with BES. Essentially, for personal use you could choose any device based on it’s features (including a Blackberry) and how you like the device before worrying about this so called push. In fact a smart phone will pick up your mail directly without an intermediary (BIS). On a side note I doubt smart phones have the HTTP exchange connection and I am not sure whether corporate IT would expose it, they definitely don’t like POP.

Is the software corporate IT install on their exchange server and then buy licenses for each device to connect it. Highly secure etc. this is the real push. It’s also more integrated with exchange using address books, calendars etc.The trouble is that BES use may not be included in your tariff. With Orange it’s an extra £35! So I would pay £35 for calls (good tariff for me) £7.50 for BIS and then £35 for BES. What a con. Although I explained what I wanted in the Orange store no-one told me about the extra £35!

If you want BES be very, very careful if you are buying the phone yourself.

I also had a right old laugh with configuring the BIS to get my email. I had to connect to work email servers (Exchange) and configured POP3 and it worked. I then set up loads of rules in my PC to route email, categorise it etc. as I get loads. Trouble was, when the Blackberry service went in to get email it marked all my email as read and none of my rules would work, absolute nightmare! I finally got it working on IMAP which doesn’t have that problem but it took a month. The risk here is not all IT departments would be so understanding about which protocol you can use, so you could have lots of lovely issues with work email.

Again, try phoning a help line and explaining that stuff, not a chance on getting anyone to understand.

All in all it’s a great device, a little fiddly as a phone (small keys) but the ball for navigation makes it a true one handed device as opposed to something with a touchscreen, which is definately two handed. Just beware the tariff trap and the complete idiocy of phone store staff.

Hope it helps