Anyone who knows me personally, or has observed my practices when it comes to gadgets and technology, knows that I pay attention to small details. As you know, I recently began using a Blackberry Bold as my primary handset, and all in all, I am very happy with it. I wrote about my first impressions and why I am not trading it in for an iPhone. I wrote about my issues with RIM as a company and with Blackberry as a phone, but I felt a strong need to emphasize one serious issue with RIM’s offering.
When the average person hears the words email and mobile, they automatically think BlackBerry, and rightfully so. BlackBerrys are the ultimate email machines. You receive your emails faster than you can say the word “email” and they are pushed to your device and stored on the phone’s memory. This of course provides a superior email experience, which is the primary reason people buy BlackBerrys.
On another note, when people hear the words “email” and “Web”, they automatically think Gmail, and rightfully so. Gmail is the most advanced and user friendly email web service, and it has also become the fastest growing one, both in terms of capacity and users. I love Gmail.
So, putting one and one together, you would think the world’s mobile email leader would offer full support for the world’s leading web email provider, wouldn’t you? In fact, I would think that RIM would offer features available only to Gmail users. What I have found is exactly the opposite. The BlackBerry’s support for Gmail is outdated and not practical.
When you initially configure your Gmail with your BlackBerry, you are only presented with the option of using the primitive POP3 protocol. Now, let’s talk a little bit about POP3 VS. IMAP4. To simplify things, I will just explain why I only use IMAP. In today’s technologically advanced world, people are accessing their email accounts from numerous platforms. They check their email from their computer, their laptop, their cellphone, their iPod, should I go on? IMAP enables all those platforms to stay in sync with each other. So if you are at a cafe and you check your email on your iPod, the email you read, archived, or deleted will appear that way in your Outlook as well.
Imagine having to see every email you read appear as a new email when you open your computer or laptop. That could get very annoying, not to mention confusing and inefficient. IMAP solves this issue and keeps all your platforms in sync. There really is no reason to use POP3 anymore.
However, Blackberry users, the consumers who buy the expensive phone so they can have the best email experience are a little stuck. As I said, when defining your email on your BlackBerry, you are only presented with the option of defining a POP account. If you figure out a workaround, which took me a few weeks to find, of leaving the password field blank when setting up an email, you can then define your advanced settings manually including the IMAP protocol. OK, so no big deal, right? Wrong! Once you set up IMAP on the Blackberry, your problems are just beginning.
Now that you have IMAP set up on your Blackberry, your device should sync with your Gmail on the Web. What I mean is that when you are working at a computer and reading emails all day, any action you take in your inbox on the Web should be reflected on your BlackBerry. Unfortunately, it is not. Once an email arrives on your BlackBerry, it stays there until you delete in manually. What ends up happening is that I see every email twice. This might not seem like the biggest deal to you but if you think about different scenarios and how this could affect them, you will realize it can be a huge inconvenience.
I have read up a lot about this issue and it is a known problem with no solution or even acknowledgment from the part of RIM. I am surprised that BlackBerry users around the world are not kicking and screaming about this. In my opinion, as much as I love my Bold, this might be the one factor that gets me to abandon BlackBerry for another phone that supports full IMAP (Android’s IMAP experience is seamless and pretty close to the Push experience you get on Blackberrys in terms of the lack of delay.).
One of the solutions to this issue, I have to add, is to use the Blackberry Gmail app. The app supports full IMAP and gives you access to all your folders and contacts. In my opinion, this is not a viable option. That app works on almost all phones, I do not think there is any point of owning a BlackBerry if you are going to use that app. It does not support real Push technology, which means you will have a delay of a few minutes before receiving emails, which again, is not the end of the world, but why buy a BlackBerry if you do not have Push? In addition, as comfortable as Gmail’s interface is, I prefer the BlackBerry email interface, so the Gmail app is a no go.
I find it very hard to believe that RIM is completely ignoring this issue, there is even an online petition to solve it (sign it). I HAVE to believe that a workaround exists somewhere. If you know of one, and please do not tell me to forward my emails to Yahoo, please share it in the comments.