Friday, December 17, 2010

How to use a BlackBerry without its Service?

How to use a BlackBerry without its Service

We said it over and over again in the write-up that we love BlackBerry phones, but hate some of the pricing structures and restrictions that Indian network operators have forced upon us. Do you already own a BlackBerry and now feel that its services are of no great use to you? Or, are you adamant to buy only a BlackBerry cell phone but don't want to cough up the monthly charges? The following info is of good use to you then. But before that, let's clear up the air about how BlackBerry phones work with mobile Internet.
older BlackBerry phones (for example, the 7000 series or phones with an OS prior to BlackBerry OS 3.8) could only rely on their special service for any kind of data exchange -- be it Internet browsing, push e-mail or any 3rd party application. BlackBerry's service works on the typical GPRS mobile Internet that all other phones use. 
But since BlackBerry OS 3.8, they gave the users an option to configure the phone with typical GPRS settings (or TCP settings). Most newer BlackBerry phones (like the Curve 8520/8900 and Bold 9000/9700 etc.) support the use of 3rd party apps over regular GPRS without subscribing to BlackBerry's Internet service. So, follow these steps in order to get it working on your BlackBerry. 
1) Update your BlackBerry OS to the latest version
As I mentioned before, it is only after BlackBerry OS 3.8 that BlackBerry allows you to input regular GPRS settings. So, if you have a device running anything older, update your OS by connecting the phone to your PC, running the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software that came with the phone, and updating the OS.

2) Choose a regular GPRS plan
You may not want to subscribe to BlackBerry's monthly plans, but you will have to activate typical GPRS service nonetheless. Most operators have a pay-as-you-go GRPS schemes without any rentals, where they charge you per KB. Typically, the rates are 10 paise / 10 KB. That's around Rs. 10 per MB. So, if you're going to sparingly use the Internet on your BlackBerry, such a scheme would be OK. But if you're going to actively use the Internet, better opt for a fixed monthly rental plan. For instance, Tata Docomo and Airtel offer 2GB per month for Rs. 99. In my experience, if you are moderately going to use Internet on a cell-phone, 100 to 256 MB per month should be sufficient. So, check with your operator for various data plans and select a suitable one.
3) Key in these settings on your BlackBerry
On your BlackBerry, in the main menu, click Options -> Advanced options -> TCP
You'll see three fields -- APN, Username and password. The "APN" is the Access Point Name. This is one of the settings that allows you to establish a GPRS connection with your service provider, and it's different for different providers. For example, Vodafone's APN in India is 'portalnmms', Idea's is 'Internet', Loop mobile's is 'www'. Most providers leave the username and password fields blank. So, all you need to find out is the APN for your cell-phone operator. You can also look up on their website, it'll mostly be in the "Value Added Services -> Mobile Internet" section. Look for "Manual GPRS settings". You'll find the APN as one of the mentioned settings there. Or better yet, just call their customer care and ask for it.

4) Download alternative software

a) It is pretty obvious that since you aren't subscribing to BlackBerry's Internet service, you won't be able to use push e-mail on your phone. Also, you won't be able to use the built-in mail client for downloading any e-mails. If you use Gmail, then you need not worry since there's a dedicated Gmail app that works on regular GPRS. But what about your office e-mail ID? Here's a workaround
Link your official mail to your Gmail account. Simply log into your Gmail, on the top-right corner, click Settings -> Accounts and Import -> Add POP3 account. Type in your official e-mail ID followed by the password. Next, it will ask you to enter POP settings.
If you aren't aware of these details, ask your system admin at the office for information. If you want to keep work and personal e-mails completely separate, then just create another Gmail account and follow the steps from before; since the Gmail app supports handling of multiple Gmail accounts. 
Now, all e-mails from your official mail ID should get downloaded onto Gmail at regular intervals, which, in turn, will be viewable via the Gmail app on your BlackBerry. The app is pretty easy-to-use and has all the basic features of Gmail like the awesome search engine, threaded conversations etc. It also blinks that LED next to the ear-piece indicating new e-mails.
Alternatively, you can also look at Logic Mail, a 3rd party SMTP/POP e-mail client app. All these workarounds may not be as prompt as push e-mail, but then if you don't mind receiving mails with a little delay, then this would suffice.
b) Next, certain pre-installed apps made especially for BlackBerry will not work with the GPRS settings that we've just keyed in. Apps like Google Talk, Yahoo/MSN messenger, BlackBerry Instant Messenger, Twitter and Facebook will not work as they need BlackBerry's Internet service to be activated. So, we'll need to install alternative apps. For Google Talk/MSN/Yahoo Messengers, install an app called Nimbuzz. It is a multi-protocol chat client supporting all the former mentioned chat services along with Facebook Chat, AIM, Skype and ICQ too. Unfortunately, you won't be able to communicate with your BlackBerry Messenger pals without its service; no workaround for that one the best of my knowledge.

c) The built-in browser mostly works, but its not one of the best to surf full-fledged websites. So, its always a good idea to have Opera Mini installed alongside.

d) For Twitter, the Seesmic app works fine without the Blackberry Internet Service. For Facebook, you could rely on
e) Lastly, the Google Maps application works fine over regular GPRS Internet, at least in newer handsets from the Curve, Bold or the Storm series.

At the end of the day, these are just a few hook-or-crook methods that will let you use some of the features while bypassing the subscription to BlackBerry's services. But these are just alternatives, and not close to the real thing. They will not offer you the highly integrated set of software and services that BlackBerry promises to deliver. So, all in all, if you want a tension-free experience on your BlackBerry, then it's just better to cough up the moolah to use their service.

But if you're like finding escape pathways and alternative roads, then try the above tips out. Got any more else that you'd like to share? Fire it up in the comments section below.


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