It’s now been about a month since I started using the ubiquitous (in North America, anyway) BlackBerry. The good news, and what I was most worried about coming from the Fido hiptop and its unlimited data, is that I didn’t go over the allotted 7 MB of ones and zeroes on my $40 Fido BlackBerry Connect plan. To be fair, I didn’t do as much pointless web surfing in the field as usual, but the CrackBerry did faithfully download all of my email from my top three accounts, and I read pretty much every message on it except for the spam.
My particular unit, an unlocked 8700g from O2 in the UK, is a joy to use. The keypad on it certainly isn’t as good as its hiptop counterpart, but the higher-res screen and faster EDGE data speeds more than make up for that. Also, I don’t have to worry about manually administering email on the device — mailboxes on the hiptop are capped at a total of 6MB, while my CrackBerry automagically deletes email older than 30 days. Easy.
I’m also growing to appreciate the BlackBerry’s sturdy, one-piece design. I’ve heard stories of executives who drop their CrackBerries on a daily basis, and it’s nice to know they can take a beating and keep on beeping. And with no major moving parts, there’s less to break.
For this Mac zealot the biggest adjustment in moving from hiptop to BlackBerry has been managing PIM data.
At present there is no easy way to get your hiptop data into a Mac PIM app, save for manually transcribing each calendar event and contact yourself. BlackBerries, on the other hand, can sync data to a Mac computer using two apps — PocketMac or Missing Sync.
PocketMac is now the official Macintosh sync utiliy offered by RIM, so right out of the gate it has one immediate advantage over Missing Sync — it’s free.
After installation PocketMac will immediately create a custom calendar in your PIM app, and there’s a very good reason for this. There are a bunch of known bugs with PocketMac, mostly with event reminders and timed to-dos.
Two weeks ago I started getting all these weird reminders on my BlackBerry, like “Your Mother’s Birthday is 2,027 days ago”. Realizing that I had a corrupt calendar database I had no other choice but to wipe my BlackBerry and reinstall everything.
My current setup (detailed above) only syncs timed events within the last thirty days, with no reminders. I’ve a separate, desktop-only category with alarms for important stuff that I usually do at my computer anyway, like pay bills and send people annoying e-cards on their birthday.
This may seem like a hassle when compared to the hiptop’s instant, over-the-air sync; however, because the hiptop’s calendar is limited to 1,000 events, once you’ve reached that limit you have to start deleting stuff, and once you do that those memories (evidence?) are gone forever.
I won’t for a second pretend that PocketMac is perfect, but I do like how it makes use of my Mac’s built-in resources that would otherwise go unused. Notes on the BlackBerry are synced with Stickies on the Mac, while Safari bookmarks are pushed to a special Bookmark app on the BlackBerry. Nice.
Missing Sync offers a lot more control over what you sync and how. For example, you can specify how each individual field in your address booked is mapped on your handheld device.
The app also packs a powerful one-two punch of supporting photo and music transfer from iPhoto and iTunes to the new BlackBerry Pearl.
So why am I not using it?
Unlike most BlackBerry users I spend about as much time surfing the mobile web as I do checking email on the run, so the bookmark support of PocketMac makes it the better choice. Also, since I know tons of other CrackBerry addicts I started collecting their PIN numbers, an address book field which Missing Sync doesn’t presently support.
Either app does a passable job, though — it’s just too bad you can’t use them both at the same time and get the best of both worlds!