Review: AstraSync 3.0

Rating: ★★★★★★★★½☆

Website: www.astrasync.com/beta

Price: $49/user/year

Supported Devices:

• 87XX devices running OS 4.2 and later

• 88XX devices running OS 4.2 and later

• Pearl 81XX devices running OS 4.2 and later (no support for keyboard shortcuts yet)

• Curve 83XX devices running OS 4.2 and later

• Curve 8900 devices running OS 4.6

• Bold 9000 devices running OS 4.6

AstraSync is a software application that brings the Microsoft ActiveSync and DirectPush technology to BlackBerry devices. It allows you to sync your emails, calendar and contacts without the need of a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) or a BlackBerry data plan that is BES enabled. This brings a lot of cost savings to the companies/end users.

ActiveSync is also not only a feature of Microsoft Exchange, but it is also supported by many other mail server products, such as Zimbra, Kerio, Mailsite Fusion, Communigate Pro and FirstClass.

Installation:

The installation is pretty straightforward. Simply browse to http://www.astrasync.com/beta from your device and you can install it. Before the download/install, make sure to register for trial from Astrasync web site, which allows you to try the software for 7 days. Once the install is completed, you will be presented with a warning. Then the application will configure its networks settings:

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Then simply enter your mail server and account details:

Finally, select the items you want to synchronize and voila. The application is smart enought to detect existing entries in your calendar and contacts and warn you accordingly.

Once all is set, it will take a couple of minutes (or more, depending on how much data you have on the server) to finish initial synchronization.

Usage:

The email portion uses its own interface:

However, calendar and contacts sync directly with BlackBerry’s own databases, so for them, no separate interface is used.

During testing, I found a minor bug, the email font sizes shrink (see above and below). This happens after a reboot and if you open the application before any new message arrives. But considering the version tested is still beta, it is not a big issue.

The BlackBerry button brings the menu and it has similar options like the BlackBerry Messages application.

Under Options, you can fine tune the application to your needs.


For example, you can setup a sync schedule to suit your needs. The scheduling allows you to specify how frequently you want to sync (as items arrive, every x minutes, etc). This can save your battery since you don’t need to sync very frequently. Also, from my experience, even leaving the unit at Direct Push all times, the battery life was not bad. My battery lasted at least a day and a half with moderate use (I am using a BlackBerry Bold).

Here are some for option screens.

The application worked smoothly for me. I only have a few gripes:

1. Folder support – this is already on the road map for the 3.0 release, so hopefully it will be there soon.

2. Fonts – I’d like to be able to customize the UI, including font type and size.

3. Integration with profiles – you cannot specify different alert options for different profiles. Also you cannot set the volume level of the alerts.

4. New message notifications – similar to Gmail and other mail apps, I’d like to be able to see if a new message is there without having to go into the application. Gmail does this by changing the icon, so I think it is doable.

Overall, I love the application, it works great, keeps my emails, contacts and calendar synced without the need of BES. Also MailSite has kindly provided the next 3 months roadmap:

Version 3.0: email improvements: new Message List & Viewer, email keyboard shortcuts,  more scalable message storage, message performance, remote wipe, password security.
Version 3.1: meeting requests: meeting requests, email folders, HTML email, email client search, attachment upload.
Version 4.0: more PIM: tasks, email server search, internationalization, AutoDiscovery.

And the good part, since it is a yearly subscription: all the updates are included. You won’t be paying any extra. Also, the version I tested was 3.06 and I just learned 3.08 will be out either on April 9th or April 14th (I guess it is due to Easter holiday: if it doesn’t get released on the 9th, a.k.a. “today”, it will be on the 14th). This not only fixes some known issues, but also includes feature improvements.

Pros:

- Sync your calendar and contacts without BES
– Save money by using a cheaper data plan
– Sync fast

Cons:

- Limited UI customization
– No way to tell if a new message has arrived, if you missed the alert before.

15 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. I love this program! Have been using it since it launched, and it keeps getting better. I have to use it, no BIS/BES coverage here…

  2. Not that big of a fan. Major gripes are:
    1. You have to launch it when the device reboots. It does not automatically begin syncing.
    2. If it ever encounters an error, it does not resume syncing until you open the application and acknowledge the error. There is no notification that an error has even occurred.
    3. Yearly subscription fees suck.

  3. I’d highly recommend filing a report on the Astrasync 3.0 beta forums (http://forum.astrasync.com/Default.aspx?g=topics&f=18). Upcoming 3.0.8 has some good fixes and enhancements as well.

  4. 3.0.8 is released today…Just downloading it.

  5. I’ve been a user since it first started working with Exchange 2003. Granted the program has some areas for improvement but they are pretty good about getting updates out. The current beta is a big leap forward from the earlier versions and I’m excited to see future versions.

  6. Any remote device wipe?
    How about visibility to the full inbox hierarchy?
    Will I find this on the RIM product catalog?
    Does it sync sent items?
    Are deleted items saved?
    Any contact sync?
    Any task sync?
    Any email notification popups?
    Any new mail indicator?

    No? hmmmm http://www.notifysync.com

  7. I don’t like how you can’t use the native BB programs. Other alternatives like Bberrysync.com and ThinkPost.net are better because at least they are native

  8. If you have 3 e-mails setup on your phone, how do you setup the software to monitor only the one you want without inferring with the other 2. I downloaded the demo and the reason I stopped using astrasync was because it didn’t know which email I was using when sending a message or changes in the calendar and caused a lot of confusion between all my email accounts. Any insight in this problem or has the new version fixed that problem or did I miss something in the setup.

    • Astrasync has its own email interface, so it will not mix with built-in messaging client. The emails are completely separate. Also, while it sync your calendars, when setting a new appointment I haven’t seen an option to send the request from the account tied to Astrasync. Only options so far are my BIS accounts.

      I’d suggest posting on Astrasync forums or sending them an email.

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