Tuesday, March 2, 2010

My BlackBerry Is A Dysfunctional Alcoholic With Negligent Parents

My 1 year old BlackBerry Bold can't get off the sauce... it literally needs regular doses of isopropyl alcohol just to stay "functional." To make matters worse its recently taken to huffing Dust-Off to make it through the day. Many of you with BlackBerrys featuring trackballs (Bold 9000, Curve 8900, Tour 9630, 8800 series, etc.) know exactly what I'm talking about... though some of you may be enabling with denial or delusions that your BlackBerry can work through its issues without intervention. People, I'm here to tell you that it's not your fault that your handset's trackball isn't working... you don't have sweatier hands than everyone else and you don't have any greater propensity to eat onion rings before checking your Twitter feed. The problem is clearly a design flaw with the device. If that wasn't the case, then why would RIM be phasing out trackballs in favor of the "trackpad"? Of course, they should have realized that the trackball was a dumb idea from the outset, considering the laptop guys had gone down that road years before and abandoned it for the exact same reasons RIM now has.

When my trackball problems began, over the Holidays, I took my Bold into my local AT&T Wireless retail outlet. God I hate those places... employees must be trained to have that infuriating balance of fake-courtesy, utter uselessness and a sales sleaze factor that rivals that found in auto dealerships (haven't they learned anything about retailing from Apple?). True to form, while acknowledging that they had seen this problem many times, they informed me that my device was days out of warranty and that my options were to have it serviced by paying $60 & shipping it away for a couple weeks (very helpful) or (they encouraged) I should really buy a new device. I told them I was gonna take it up with RIM. So while I was at CES in early January I took the opportunity to visit the booth of the Canadian handset manufacturer and plead my case. RIM employees have obviously been counseled to avoid acknowledgement of the issue entirely... when I showed them that I was unable to use my device to track downwards they feigned curiosity and had no suggestions as to how I might fix the problem. When I asked about the thousands of internet posts about folks resorting to rubbing alcohol to clean their trackballs, all they said was that that would constitute a warranty violation.

The sad thing is that I've been a long time devotee, fan of and evangelist for BlackBerry ever since my company replaced my Palm Vx with a BlackBerry 950 pager 9 years ago. I've successfully encouraged many friends and family members to buy these devices. Even in the face of borderline fanatical iPhone worship amongst peers in the mobile entertainment space... I've stayed loyal to my BlackBerry. But that may be about to change. I really feel that RIM is long overdue in acknowledging this problem and that the right thing to do is to recall and replace all devices with slipping trackballs. I'm holding out hope, especially in light of the recent debacle with a highly respected auto manufacturer, that sense will soon prevail and that the company will take rapid action to keep their customers happy... and just keep their customers. In the very short term, I'm continuing to dose my device at least 3 times a day, while getting crazy proficient navigating around menus without the trackball. But my patience is running very thin, and I'm literally days and one Apple Store visit away from switching to an iPhone.


  1. When the trackball on my Mac mouse acts up, Apple recommended that I turn the mouse over and rub the ball on a clean piece of paper on a hard surface. It works like a charm. Perhaps that might help the Blackberry?

  2. My Bold had the same problem at around the same timeframe. You can buy a replacement trackball for a few bucks (maybe ten including shipping). (I yanked the trackball from a broken Curve I happened to have lying around) Takes 10-20 minutes to do the full servicing with the right (tiny) screwdriver. A few Google searches will find you howtos with detailed pictures on the process.