Your Berry is a Workstation!?

A legitimate workstation that packs a punch!
A legitimate workstation that packs a punch!

Have you ever thought about your BlackBerry as more than just a “smartphone?” Have you realized that with a file manager that is arguably better than Windows’, an email client that rivals Outlook, excellent contacts, calendar and organization apps, whether native or purchased, and extensive, integrated, sharing features, it’s more appropriate to consider your phone a “mobile computer?” Have you taken that a step further and thought of it as a “workstation?”

I have a Q10 and Z30 and I enjoy swapping my Verizon SIM back and forth in them. I acquired a BlackBerry Bluetooth keyboard from our own nerdydaddyo a while back that I intended to use with my PlayBook, but I recently began using it with my Z30. I would put my Berry in the stand that came with the Otterbox Defender for the PlayBook, and type away using the keyboard. It is a fun, and very mobile solution that works quite well. I found the keyboard shortcuts work, and the keyboard has a little trackpad and mouse pointer that comes in handy when selecting links or filling out online forms.
Recently I got a 19″ display with an HDMI-in and began plugging my Berries into the monitor and wallah! (I know – voila), instant workstation! I found myself as excited as a kid at Christmas. Seeing everything on my phone, mirrored on the big display was a real kick. Hanging out in BBM groups, sending SMS messages, surfing the web, working from the HUB and responding to emails, etc. all on this wonderful big screen with a full QWERTY keyboard! Too awesome!!! I recently took a risk and left a not so fun job in order to pursue my real passion in a Jerry MaGuire type of career change, so right now, I’m working from my home office getting my business going. I have an older Lenovo PC with Windows XP, which works fine for my needs, even though I realize it’s not a supported OS anymore and it needs to be replaced.

This little device is more powerful than I thought!

What I decided to do was see if I could legitimately use my Berries as a workstation and run my new, still forming business on them. I’ve been doing this for about 14 days and I must say, it’s for real! My Berries are actually mobile computers and paired with a monitor and keyboard, function as a legitimate workstation! Amazing! Having a keyboard and monitor really make your Berry all the more powerful. I have started PowerPoint presentations (just open a saved one, edit and re-save with new name) and word documents (Including this one), responded to emails asking for attachments of files from people at my old job, surfed around Twitter, clicked links and filled out online forms, and used Viira, my organizer, to brainstorm and document strategies for my business. Using the mobile web for “desktop” browsing on a big monitor is interesting. Most websites are mobile optimized now and you don’t miss much. They load quick in part due to the ultra-fast BB10 browser and also due to the fact that they are designed for mobile devices. Also, using apps like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (IGrann) on the big monitor is very cool. Often the mobile version of a website is organized more simply and is more visually appealing. Overall, the web browsing experience is a pleasant surprise. If you’re like me, you run your life from your BlackBerry. This means using certain apps. For me, Twitter and GNewsReader are how I get my daily news. Viira, coupled with the BBRY calendar, is how I organize my personal and professional lives, while Money Plus is how I keep track of my checking and savings accounts and track my expenditures. All these apps are on my phone and have nice UI’s. Why not just “use them on the desktop!?” If you think about it, this type of configuration has significant efficiencies like using the same apps and only having to manage one source of data.

Regarding the phone, I have had conference calls on my phone while it was still connected via HDMI to the monitor, but disconnecting your phone from the monitor and reconnecting it is as easy as pulling the HDMI cable out or putting it in; the connection/disconnection is almost instantaneous, so there’s no reason not to pick up your phone at the drop of a hat, and walk around with it if need be.

The Z30 screen is more narrow on the monitor.
The Z30 screen is more narrow on the monitor.

Here are some things I’ve discovered.

  • The auto-capitalize doesn’t work with a Bluetooth keyboard. Not a big deal.
  • Set your HDMI out display settings to show instant previews if you want to be able to use that feature. I must say, it’s even cooler when you’re working on a big screen, to be working on a document or reading some online news and run your mouse pointer up to the toast notification and respond to it without missing a beat.
  • It seems that on some web pages, the mouse cursor from your Bluetooth keyboard will not select buttons. This is easily remedied by touching your Berry’s screen.
  • The auto suggestions don’t work when you’re typing with a Bluetooth keyboard; they don’t show up on your device or monitor.
  • The keyboard shortcuts work, even with the Z30, but not the app launcher ones, which makes sense since there’s no option to set them on the Z30.
  • The 1-1 aspect ratio of the Q10 fills up more of the external monitor than the Z30, something I find more appealing.
  • The BlackBerry Bluetooth keyboard is awesome and highly portable, however, once in a while, there is a lag between what I type and when it appears on the screen. Typically, turning off the keyboard and then re-pairing it fixes this. I don’t know if this issue is a function of the Bluetooth connection or due to the exact keyboard I’m using.
  • Hovering over an email in the HUB to bring up the action menu still must be done with your finger on your device screen. I always keep my phone sitting right in front of me within reach of my hand, so this is not a big deal.
  • When using the Bluetooth keyboard in BBM on the Z30, and you select the emoji faces, they don’t hide away when you’re done with them until you swipe out of the chat you’re in.
The Q10 aspect ratio looks better on the monitor.
The Q10 aspect ratio looks better on the monitor.

Things I have not tried yet. Someone in a group suggested a USB port multiplier or whatever that’s called, so I could actually use a USB connected keyboard and mouse if I wanted, rather than the Bluetooth keyboard. There has also been some discussion of a docking station, that would establish the connections to the monitor and keyboard and supply power to my phone, and I can tell you I would sign up for that immediately if I found one. Someone also suggested I use the USB TOGO feature of my Z30 and connect my device to external memory sources, an admittedly excellent feature, but one I have not found reason to use yet.

Clearly, there are some document creation limitations in DocumentsToGo compared to Windows MS Word, but for the average document, you will be fine. I know Blend is an awesome feature, but I would say that mirroring your sceen with HDMI has advantages over “Blending” since you can literally see on your monitor whatever is on your phone.

Productive and efficient workstation!
Productive and efficient workstation!

All in all, I am very impressed with the robust nature of BB10. This is truly a business capable OS and there is a bunch our Berries can do with a couple I/O devices connected to them. I highly suggest you give this arrangement a go if you think it would work for you, it’s fun, extremely convenient, and very effective. The possibilities are endless.

EDIT: I have found one more advantage to this, which is that it takes far less time to “turn on” this workstation than it does to fire up a Windows PC. I walk over to my desk, set my precious into the cradle, plug in the cable and turn on the keyboard and in less than 10 seconds, I’m working.

EDIT: The app launching key shortcuts work with the BlackBerry Bluetooth keyboard and my Q10, so it probably works with any Bluetooth keyboard and any Q device.

james pisano

RIM/BB fan since 2009. Wouldn't consider entrusting my career, life or privacy to another platform. Foremost, I am a student of life. Some likes: longboarding, nature, Baltimore Orioles, technology, driving, music, reading and Taoism. Politically independent.