Over the past few months, we have heard many rumors of a new service for consumers from Research In Motion. Previously known as BlackBerry Shield, it goes into private beta today with a new name: BlackBerry Protect.
This is a free service for consumers. If your device is associated with a BES account, it will not work for you. BlackBerry Protect has many features that are offered on BES already. The full feature list is:
- Locate on map
- Activate loud ringer
- Device lock
- Password change
- Lost and Found screen
- Remote wipe both device and microSD card
- OTA backup of PIM data, bookmarks and text messages
There are two interfaces: the device application and a Web-based control panel accessed with a browser.
The features are pretty self-explanatory. If you have lost or misplaced your device, the first thing you should probably do is to set up a password (if you hadn’t set up one yet) and lock the device.
Then you can try the Locate on Map tool, which uses GPS to locate your device and show it on a map. Of course, you are limited by GPS coverage: if your device is inside a building, you won’t be able to locate it. However, one nice feature is the ability to display its last known location, that may come in handy.
Another cool feature is the Lost and Found screen. It changes the lock screen message and changes its background color to red. So if someone has your device, they can read your message and contact you accordingly.
If you know your device is somewhere nearby, but simply can’t find it, you can activate Loud Ringer. That makes your phone ring loudly (by means of the Loud ringtone profile).
Finally, if you decide you need to wipe the device either for security or any other reason, you can issue a Remote Wipe command and delete all the data on the device and memory card. All these features provide feedback via the Web interface, so you know if a wipe operation was successful or not. And, if you haven’t backed up your device recently, you can first run backup, then wipe.
Also provided is an OTA backup of your PIM data (calendar, contacts, notes and tasks) and your bookmarks and text messages. It’s all in the cloud! You can schedule automatic backups or initiate manual ones. Possible intervals are daily, weekly and monthly. You can choose to backup all possible items or customize the selection to your needs. This same rule applies to restoring. If you have limited data, you can set it to backup over Wi-Fi only. Similarly, it will not run backups while on roaming by default, but you can activate that if you want.
If you need to restore your data, you can choose from a list of backup sets.
The whole account management is based on the upcoming BlackBerry ID system, which will also be used by AppWorld 2.0. Users will have a single login for all the products that support the BlackBerry ID. And each BlackBerry Protect account can be associated with up to 5 BlackBerry devices.
Currently, Blackberry Protect is running in a closed beta program. A public beta program should be available in the next couple of months. Currently, the list of supported devices is:
- BlackBerry Storm 9500 with 5.0 OS software
- BlackBerry Storm 9530 with 5.0 OS software
- BlackBerry Storm2 9550 with 5.0 OS software
- BlackBerry Bold 9000 with 5.0 OS software
- BlackBerry Bold 9700 with 5.0 OS software
- BlackBerry Tour 9630 with 4.7.1 or 5.0 OS software
- BlackBerry Curve 8520 with 5.0 OS software
- BlackBerry Curve 8900 with 4.6.1 or 5.0 OS software
From what we have heard, eventually all devices with 4.6 OS or higher will be supported.
The BlackBerry Protect Web site requires any one of these browsers:
- Windows® Internet Explorer® 7 or 8
- Mozilla® Firefox® 3.x
- Safari 3 or 4
It’s good to see Research in Motion finally offering something for the consumers to back up and protect their data. It certainly adds a lot of value to the BlackBerry brand.
WARNING: One of our editors discovered a pretty annoying pitfall during his tests. If a device has EVER been on a BES plan, no matter if it is connected to one currently or not, the user will have to perform a complete system restore. A security wipe will not work. To remove the left over IT policy, they need to flash it and reload the OS. Beware of that problem in case you are offered an opportunity to join the closed beta program, or when the beta program goes public. Also, when our editor took the media card out of the BlackBerry device with BlackBerry Protect and put it in another BlackBerry, it said that there was content restrictions on the card, and that it should be put back in the original device. That forced him to use the protected device to transfer files to his PC, worried that the device might be detected, BES would kick in and disable Protect. We are still not sure whether Protect had anything to do with the restriction to access to the media card. I can’t replicate the media card issue on my end.