The Blackberry Saga Continues

by Ed on December 9, 2006

I received my new T-Mobile Blackberry Pearl two days ago. I unpacked it and admired its beauty, turned it on, and went through the setup. Setup went without a hitch. Set up my email account on the Blackberry service with zero issues. The out of box experience (OOBE) was second to none, in my opinion. Everything worked great. I played with the phone for at least an hour, tweaking settings, exploring the features. I fell in love with it. It’s certainly the best phone I’ve owned, particularly in that form factor. Surely nothing would dampen my excitement and enthusiasm for finally finding a great phone!

Until I went to work the next day.

No signal. Totally zero. I was not happy. At home I didn’t have the best signal in the world, but if I can’t get a signal at work, the phone is useless to me. A friend had told me this might be the case, but hey, the phone was effectively free with the rebate so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Considering how much I really liked the phone at that point, not being able to have it like… you know…. work… was pretty depressing.

Then my friend told me they had the Pearl in the Cingular store up the road from my house. Originally they weren’t supposed to have it for a couple of weeks which, in concert with the low low price of $0, made me try the T-Mobile. But instead it turned out to be days. So literally, the day after I received mine I found out they were right up the road. 

By now I was hooked on the phone and liked it enough to just buy one outright at full price (I’m in a contract, so I can’t get a break). So I went there and got it. I thought that would be that. I’d get a phone with a great signal and all would be well. It didn’t turn out quite that rosy.

Four things irked me about the Cingular phone vs. the T-Mobile one:

It Looks Different And not in a good way. The keypad is solid gray/white in the center instead of having stripes of white across the keys. If you look at screenshots of the 8100 from both carriers you’ll see what I mean. The T-Mobile look is much more elegant (and is what you see on blackberrypearl.com). I have a big problem with this, as the look of the phone was one of the major things that drew me to it in the first place.

More Cluttered The theme is much more cluttered than the T-Mobile theme. I really liked the T-Mobile’s simplicity and the scrolling list of applications (with name and icon) better than the grid of icons on the Cingular. On the flip side, the fit, finish, and iconography on the Cingular is much nicer. I just prefer a simpler theme (and the built-in Zen one doesn’t really thrill me either). That said, I’ve gotten used to the Cingular theme as I’ve been using it. I wish I could take it and just modify it to be more like the T-Mobile’s layout with the Cingular graphics.

Network Integration The OOBE and network integration is not as well-done as the T-Mobile phone. The biggest issue for me was setting up email addresses. On the T-Mobile, you just click on “Set Up Internet E-Mail” and it takes you right to the screen to set up an email address to add. On Cingular, you need to go through an extra step to set up your own account in order to add email addresses to it. Seems the T-Mobile software just logs you in automatically with some existing account per phone – a very nice touch. But if it were only that I probably wouldn’t have included it here as an irk. 

The real problem is that using that interface often times fails to connect, making the phone just say “Requesting” at the bottom and it will stay like that for minutes at a time. If you try it again while it’s busy, the phone will just hang for minutes while it figures out it can’t connect. The combination of the extra step with the iffy connection on that server is pretty annoying and makes the setup take forever. In the end I found a web interface you can use from your computer to do this, but it seems like this is an area of their integration they really need to work on.

Blackberry + YIM + Cingular = 0 You can’t run Yahoo! Messenger for Blackberry on the Cingular phone. After I had installed it and tried to run it I was greeted with an error message (“Please visit www.blackberry.com/go/yahoo to activate your handheld for Yahoo! Messenger.”). Turns out just doesn’t work on Cingular, and it’s in a small disclaimer on the download page that I apparently missed. I tried it on the T-Mobile phone and it worked fine. (I should point out this is not the YIM that comes with the T-Mobile phone. That version works via SMS, not data. This was a separate download.)

At that point I had an application that wasn’t going to work, so I tried to remove it. But it wouldn’t disappear. At all. I selected delete in the Applications menu and it went away from the list, but not from the device. It doesn’t show up in the Desktop Manager at all, so I can’t remove it from there. I tried wiping the phone to no avail (that only erases data, not apps). I was on the web searching for information about how to remove applications until about 2am this morning. All the instructions I found for clearing apps doesn’t seem to apply to the Pearl. There’s a checkbox you can click in the Desktop Manager software to do this, but it seems to be disabled for this phone, possibly because if you did that you’d erase the stuff that comes from the carriers and they don’t like that. Witness our brand! Do not avert your eyes!

In the end, today I stumbled across a post about uploading a Service Book to your phone to get YIM to work on Cingular. It worked flawlessly, so as of this afternoon, I finally have a working YIM on my phone. This made me feel a lot better about things.

Conclusion: No Perfect Solution It’s certainly frustrating when you have one carrier that works amazing, but you can’t get a signal and another with a great signal but really frustrating integration points. It might be because the T-Mobile version has been out for a while and the kinks are worked out of it whereas the Cingular phone just came out last week. So I’m sending the T-Mobile back to Amazon and praying it will cancel properly. I’ll keep the Cingular as I get a really good signal with it at work and at home (really, anywhere around here in the Bay Area). And now that I have YIM working and a way to get my email straight, I’m content.

I may try to get an unlocked T-Mobile phone and put my SIM in that because yes, I’m just that fussy about the look. But that’s me.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

sfbubble December 15, 2006 at 4:39 pm

Hi. My work provides us with TMobile Blackberry’s, unfortunately it’s the 7290 models. I intend to get a Blackberry Pearl and then pop the SIM chip in. THe trick is that I have a personal cell w/ Cingular and it’s cheaper for me to get the Blackberry through Cingular.

Do you know of any problems of popping a TMobile SIM with the CIngular version Blackberry? Thanks.

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Ed December 15, 2006 at 8:33 pm

As far as I know that won\’t work since anything you buy from Cingular will be locked to the Cingular network. But if you can get an unlocked phone it should work ok. I have an unlocked TMobile Pearl here now and it\’s working fine on Cingular. You can have Cingular unlock the phone, but I think you need to be on a plan for 90 days or something before they\’ll give you the code.

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Stacy December 27, 2006 at 4:52 pm

where did you find that fix to make YIM work on cingular?

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Ed December 27, 2006 at 7:30 pm
Spencer CDS January 22, 2007 at 9:36 am

Glad those instructions helped you out, there, Ed. I’ll keep ya posted on more useful stuff.

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