In November of 2007 I came to the conclusion that I needed a smart phone. I’m currently working on a Mac Mini and wanted to not only get email on my cell phone but also wanted to have my calendar, address book and task list. At the time when I asked the sales person in the Verizon store, I was told that they had 3 phones that were Mac compatible the BlackBerry Pearl 8130, BlackBerry 8830 and Palm Treo 755p. I previously owned a Palm tungsten E. It was nice but I opted for the BlackBerry Pearl 8130.

I was a little skeptical about just how compatible the phone would be with my Mac since it took some digging by the sales person to figure out that BlackBerry was Mac compatible. With that said I bought the BlackBerry Pearl 8130. It did not come with any software in the box I had to download it from the website. I downloaded PocketMac v4.0.20b. After installing it I was able to sync with iCal, Address Book and Mail. It supported other applications too, but those were the applications I was using.

Ireally like BlackBerry Pearl 8130. Some of the things I liked were the compact size and the way it guessed what I was typing. The keyboard was not a full QWERTY but a version with no more than 2 letters per button so typing was fairly easy and the BlackBerry Pearl 8130 seemed to learn from what you entered and got really good at guessing what you were going to type. The Map tool is pretty cool too. You can search for places and get directions. To be clear though it was not turn by turn GPS, though you could use Verizon’s VZ Navigator for that. I also liked the fact that the phone was smart enough to know when it saw a phone number in an email or when browsing the web. If you clicked on a phone number it would ask if you wanted to dial it. Very cool. It made a very useful site on my phone.

I did run into 3 big issues that resulted in the return of my BlackBerry Pearl 8130.

The first issue was attempting to fix the calendar on the phone. Somehow the calendar on my BlackBerry Pearl 8130 was in triplicate. The Mac was fine. No one could figure out why it was in triplicate. What is worse no one from Verizon or BlackBerry could fix it. I was told by a BlackBerry tech if only I had a Windows computer they could correct the issue in minutes. I did not have a Windows computer. All I had was a Mac OS computer. Over a 2 day period I spoke with 2 BlackBerry technicians. After throwing many darts, the second tech I spoke with decided that a security erase was the only way to fix it. Then I would have to push the data from my computer down to the device. So I did.

That was in my first 30 days of owning the phone. I had to decide if I should keep it or return it to the store. I really liked the phone. When the sync was working it worked. The support for fixing issues was lacking but there was a solution. I kept the phone.

The second issue comes up in my 8th week of owning my BlackBerry Pearl 8130. I bought a new wireless keyboard and mouse from logitech, the Cordless wave. After installing the control console software on my Mac the PocketMac sync stopped working. It took 2.5 hours on the phone with support to trouble shoot this issue. Support had no idea what the issue was. Lucky me I was able to boot my Mac to a disk that did not have the keyboard control console installed on it. I tested PocketMac and it worked again. It looks like PocketMac is using the keyboard controller to make calls to helper applications to perform the sync of various items like calendar, address book and email.

All I can ask is, “Why would a programmer rely on something like the keyboard controller to communicate with other applications?” It makes no sense. I should be able to install a 3rd party keyboard and mouse without having it break my sync tool. I would not expect this kind of home grown programming from a commercial application like PocketMac. Ultimately I returned the logitech Cordless wave keyboard and mouse and bought a wired Mac keyboard and a Kensington wireless mouse. This combination of hardware worked fine.

Again I considered returning the BlackBerry Pearl 8130 but decided that the devil I knew was better than one I would have to get to know. Besides that the only other option from Verizon was a Palm Treo 755p. It just did not appeal to me. Once again I kept the phone knowing that there would always be this issue with 3rd party keyboards.

Since the first two issues could not sway me to return this phone a third issue came up to test my patients. I wanted to update the firmware on my phone. The updater would not run on my Mac OS computer. It required a Windows computer. This was my breaking point. After an hour on the phone with Verizon support I was told I can take my phone to any corporate store and they could update the firmware for me. So I did. I drove to the Verizon store near me. At first I was told no they could not update smart phones. They could only handsets. Then after another hour at the store they reluctantly offered to try something they have never done before. They would use one of their windows computers to run the firmware update for me. Then came the clincher, this operation would reset the phone to factory setting erasing my settings and possible some data. I knew I had my calendar and my address book on my Mac but I did not have my bookmarks and I was sure that I would loose something that was not backed up since PocketMac was only a sync tool it did not backup the entire phone and it’s settings. It only synced data. I did not allow them to update the firmware on the phone.

At this point it was painfully clear that this was not a Mac OS compatible smart phone. Yes it could sync but it was not fully compatible with the maintenance tools needed to own and operate the phone as a Mac user. Sure a firmware update works flawlessly on a windows computer, according a a Verizon support technician, even restoring all the correct settings, but not on a Mac. The following day I called customer service. They were very understanding allowing me to port my phone number to another provider and giving me a full refund.

I now have my eye on the 8GB iPhone. I’m thinking this should be compatible with my Mac OS computer … Right?

Additional Note:
The PocketMac installation does not install PocketMac for multiple users on a Mac that share the computer with separate logins. When PocketMac installs it places files that are meant for general use, like plugins, in the users library folder instead of the computers library folder. This means that PocketMac must be installed for each user with a login on the computer that will need to sync their phone. Now this gets even better. You cannot install PocketMac unless you are an admin user. So you need change all the user accounts to have admin privileges, install PocketMac, then change them back to simple users. This is completely stupid.