Special Bacon on BlackBerry: The Curse of the Black Pearl


Bacon on BlackBerry

Magmic’s main BlackBerry man, Jeff Bacon, is back with another piece for us. This time, however, Jeff isn’t answering your BlackBerry questions, but giving you the straight deal on the Pearl. You see, as a trusted BlackBerry developer, Jeff has had his hand on the Pearl for some time, but hasn’t been able to talk about it to anyone until it was officially announced (which was today, duh). So take a look at this little pearl of wisdom Jeff sent to our inbox this morning — one that might change your mind on how effective a multimedia device the Pearl will be.

When evaluating BlackBerries I have to be careful. Since I develop BlackBerry application and games, the use cases I run into for BlackBerrys are significantly different from the average user. For example, I have about 8 BlackBerrys on my desk right now. Only one has a SIM card in it. The rest are just testers I use to make sure Magmic’s games run well on every BlackBerry out there. For me, the fact that I have to pull out the battery to switch the SIM card is a major headache. Every time I do it I have to wait an insanely long time for the BlackBerry to boot back up again and register with the network before I can load on whatever game I’m testing at that moment and get back to work.

For most people, replacing the SIM is a once-a-year (or longer) action. For me, it’s a multiple-times-per-day occurrence. Aside from paying for 8 active SIMs with data plans on them that I only use for 30 minutes a day (that’ll make my CFO’s head explode) there’s not much I can do to avoid this.

In my pockets right now there are two pieces of electronics irradiating me: my BlackBerry 7100v and my iRiver H10 6GB MP3 player (which kicks the iPod’s ass for my usage). One of the reasons I have a hard drive based MP3 player instead of a flash one is that when I bought it, flash memory was freaking expensive. There were very few large, cost effective flash players out there. I like to carry around a variety of music to listen to depending on the activity I’m partaking in and my mood. Ideally, I would have a player that takes SD cards and I’d load up 4 or 5 SD cards with music and just swap them in/out of a player. With 1GB and 2GB SD cards going for < $50 CDN, that may soon be a reality.

So the common thread in my usage of SIM cards and my ideal MP3 player is the ease of changing the medium carrying the data (SIM or SD card) in the device without having to restart the device so I can get back to using it as fast as possible (not to mention that rebooting sucks battery power).

Now, does anyone remember the N-Gage? Here’s a snippet of a review on the original N-Gage from 2003:

The main minus of the device is MMC-slot covered by the battery, so you should turn off the phone when changing card.

That doesn’t seem so bad, just turn off the phone and swap out the card right?

…the biggest fundamental design problem, as you may have heard, is the incredibly complex procedure necessary to change games or insert an MP3 media card. To do this, you’ll need to turn the system over, press a button and slide off the back cover, reach under and lift up the battery, slide out the current card (which is located right next to the phone’s SIM card), slide in another one, replace the battery, put the battery back on, and turn on the phone and wait for it to boot back up. (source)

Anyone looked at the location of the microSD slot in the Pearl?

The big issue I have is the placement of the MMC card slot. I really, really, really hope they redesign this feature because it’s inconvenient, annoying, and just moronically designed. (source)

(Wow, does this make things interesting. Will this Pearl design flaw be a minor bump in the road, or another N-Gage disaster? Post a comment and tell us what you think. -ed)

13 Responses to “Special Bacon on BlackBerry: The Curse of the Black Pearl”

  1. 1 Thought

    Minor bump in the road: the N-Gage was marketed as a gaming device/cell phone. The main feature differentiation was its ability to play games. Playing games requires more swap out of cards than other utilities.

    The Pearl is much more, and while it will be an inconvenience to swap out memory cards, that will occur less frequently for the average user than it would for a gamer. Most will be able to fit all they need on one memory card, and still have space left over.

    Sure, there will be power users that as you say, might want different cards for different types of music, but that will be a small percentage of the overall market.

    Most will load up a relative few songs, some pics, some files, etc. on one card and be happy with that.

    I’ve used a Treo as well as BB’s, and I know that I thought that having the memory card slot on top would be so great because of the easy swapability. Yet I found out that I didn’t need to swap out cards very much at all. One large capacity memory card was sufficient for me for 90% of the time.

  2. 2 moog

    Irrelevant. As you said, 2G MiscroSD cards are cheap. If you have need for more than 1 card, you likley want more than 4G combined memory anyhow and will opt for an iPod. This is in a totlaly different market from the N-Gage with a completely different focus.

  3. 3 Thought

    Have you tried using the simulators provided at BlackBerry’s Development website instead of having to swap hardware multiple times per day?

    This way you could use the simulator to test the games on any handheld and software combination you wish all but eliminating the final test stages where you would probably rather use hardware for verification.



    BlackBerry Email and MDS Services Simulator Package

    The BlackBerry email and MDS Services simulator package can emulate certain aspects of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. When used in conjunction with a BlackBerry device simulator, users can simulate browsing web content, sending and receiving email or application data traffic. Using this simulator package can assist in application development and testing, and the package itself is ideal for training or for use in sales presentations.

  4. 4 Bacon on Blackberry


    regarding the SD card sizes, if manufacturers (not just RIM) want to put MP3 playing and video playing capabilities on thier devices, then what do they expect people to use them for? If it’s only the occasional MP3 file or ringtone, then no memory expansion card is needed. If it’s for playing MP3s as an MP3 player, then they need to accomodate the most frequent use case for an MP3 player of that size. Everyone I know that has an MP3 player that’s bigger then a memory stick in size (physical dimensions) has one with 4-20GB of space on it. A smartphone is bigger then many hard drive based MP3 players, if I’m willing to cart around a big device it needs to accomodate the big device use cases. In this case, lots of MP3s/video. Otherwise, remove those features and make the device smaller/cheaper.

  5. 5 Bacon on Blackberry


    regarding the simulators, they only go so far. I have dozens of simulators for various devices and OS versions. They don’t simulate the performance characteristics of the devices or network latency (for multiplayer games) so we still have to do a lot of work on the actual devices.

  6. 6 Luke

    The SD card location is going to be a problem for me. And I feel your pain on the Sim cards. I’m a very frequent business traveller and all my information is on the blackberry. I swap sim cards 1-2 times a week depending on the country I’m in and waiting the 10 plus minutes it takes for my blackberry to boot can painful when you want to call someone who is picking you up from the airport. It’s rather annoying. The 7130c is much better in this regard than the old 7100. I have over 2000 contacts in my phone so that probably makes a huge difference.

  7. 7 olly

    I’ve owned a ton of phones with memory card slots (most of mine in the laast 3 years actually), and I can’t honestly say that I have swapped cards out more than a few times here and there. Hell, even on the N-Gage all those of us that loved it did was buy a big ass card, put 20 cracked games on it, and never swap it.

    For 99% of people, it’s not that great of inconvenience.

    Can’t wait until Tuesday, ready to get my Pearl!


  8. 8 Jamison Banks

    As a cellphone carrier employee who troubleshoots blackberries for a living, I can say road bump, but a major one. Most of our customers love card slots, and if this is truly buried in the device to the point you have to take the battery out . . . that’s asinine.

    The Treo, most pocket pc’s, etc can directly plug the card in without pulling thye battery, let alone powering off the unit.

    What was RIM thinking here?

  9. 9 Bacon on BlackBerry

    … also, the largest microSD card I see right now is 1GB for $70 US. I think there’s 2GB available but only from SanDisk so they’ll be expensive.

  10. 10 Bacon on BlackBerry

    The Pearl only supports microSD cards up to 1GB in size anyway so there’s a limit that will exasperate the swapping of cards.

  11. 11 JL

    To #11, there is no limit on the card that can be used with the Pearl. 1GB, 2GB whatever works just fine. See bottom of this link:


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