RIM’s Blackberry was only an Enterprise cell phone and so most people used it with Blackberry Enterprise Server which provided over the air sync of Emails, Contacts and Calendar events with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Domino. In the era of iPhone hype, many people like me still use Blackberry to stay in sync and so I went exploring many choices for users without an Enterprise Server and/or Microsoft Outlook and here is what I found. I had to spend days researching these choices and hope this blog will help save time for many others and also wake up Google, RIM and Yahoo to act to make their products better.
My criteria was simple – an ability to automatically sync our Email, Calendar and Contacts over the air preferably without paying any more than $30 we were already paying AT&T.
I could get a hosted BB Enterprise Server solution but most of them cost in excess of $10/month – this alternative was very familiar but I wanted something free and so didn’t go with this choice. Despite marketing towards consumer markets, RIM has sadly not provided any over-the-air solution to the sync problem outside of Microsoft Outlook.
Yahoo!Mail Client for Blackberry
I was using Yahoo! Mail as my personal email so that was my first choice. I downloaded Yahoo’s mobile client for Blackberry. The installation was simple and did sync my emails well except that its sync was delayed many times by much as three to four hours. However, trying to sync Contacts and Calendar proved to be too difficult and after repeated attempts and reading lots of documentation I decided to give that up. One good thing or bad thing is that this email client looks just like the Blackberry native email client and seems to be very CPU efficient and didn’t change battery life.
Gmail Client for Blackberry
My next choice was Gmail even though I still don’t like Gmail’s presentation of email in conversation threads. Downloading Google’s mobile client for Blackberry was easy enough though not as easy as Yahoo. Once I downloaded the Gmail client, I realized that it had a different user interface – similar to one on the PC. It was much better than BB Email client for reading newsletters as it cleared all kinds of web links and made emails lot more readable on the phone. Is someone from RIM listening?
Sync client from Google choked couple of times as I had too many contacts and it took a very long time but once it synced, it got better for any other changes. While I was on Google site, I also downloaded Google Maps. Pretty soon, my Blackberry Curve started becoming slow and battery life reduced. So, I uninstalled Google Maps even though I really liked the app. Now, my Blackberry is still not as fast as it was with native Blackberry Email client but I can live with occasional slow downs and reduced battery life. The one thing that Google ignored is the delete key on the keyboard and for anyone used to that key it will be sorely missed. Also if you have many contacts, Gmail takes a long time in bringing up your contacts and seems like it goes to the network to fetch contacts unless you only keep most used contacts which are cached locally.
In short, I use Gmail on mobile and desktop and it automatically syncs everything well for me between my desktop and Blackberry. I have still kept my Yahoo client on the Blackberry for those times when Gmail slows down my Blackberry. Hopefully Google will fix this problem one day or Yahoo will wake up and do a good job in syncing Contacts and Calendar or better still RIM will wakeup and provide this service for all the non-enterprise customers before their value is completely diminished by Google.
Did you have different experiences. Share here in comments sections for others to benefit from!