Yes, it’s true; I found another to replace my GF…well sort of. BB is the name, and my GF has very good reason to be afraid!
To set things straight, I’m talking about my Garmin Forerunner 405 and its greatest rival to date, BlackBerry Curve 3G (9300). Hard to believe but a mobile device can now practically replace Garmins and similar GPS devices for sports-related activities like running.
Yes, BlackBerry phones aren’t the first devices to have GPS, nor does it have the best GPS software, but it has a very formidable feature not found on other devices—its “always connected” model. BlackBerry devices always have access to the internet without really needing to reconnect via Wi-Fi, 3G, EDGE, GPRS, etc.—it’s just always there as long as you have a phone signal. Being a mobile device, BB Curve 3Gs use Assisted GPS (A-GPS) to quickly lock onto GPS satellites and this feature combined with excellent hardware and software implementation results in a consistently quick satellite lock—oftentimes much faster than dedicated GPS-only devices like GF405s—usually within seconds, rarely exceeding a minute.
I’ve been using my BB Curve 3G for a few weeks now, comparing it’s GPS results with that of my ever-reliable GF405, and as with my head-to-head comparison with a Nokia 5800 XpressMusic, the results were staggeringly the same! The difference between Nokia and BlackBerry though is that the former (using Symbian Series 60 5th Edition and Sports Tracker) has so many software options to choose from, but locks so much longer (at least 10 minutes), while the latter (upgraded to OS 6 and Endomondo) has only a handful to choose from, but locks much, much faster. You may use either of the two options as a relatively cheaper alternative, but BlackBerry will get you started faster.
BlackBerry Curve 3G (9300)
Curve 3G (9300) is one of the entry-level units of BlackBerry so it’s features aren’t really top of the line, but its hardware specifications is more than enough to be at par with more expensive units. By default is comes shipped with BlackBerry OS 5 which is quite capable but is despicably boring to say the least. I had my hands on it when I first got my unit, and after a few minutes I was turned off by it and fortunately BlackBerry OS 6 is available as a free upgrade.
- 3G (HSDPA)
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
- MicroSD slot up to 32GB
- Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP
- Push e-mail
- Upgradable to BlackBerry OS 6
- QWERTY keyboard
- Touch-sensitive optical trackpad
- 3.5mm audio jack
- Screen size (2.46 inches, QVGA)
- 256MB RAM, 256MB ROM
- Mediocre 2MP camera, no flash
- QVGA video recording
- No front-facing camera
- No FM radio
- No Adobe Flash on browser
- Limited software options
BlackBerry OS 6
After the painstakingly long, awful, and highly technical software upgrade process that only tech junkies will complete in a few hours (inclusive of downloading ridiculously large sums of files, installation, and countless Google searches for troubleshooting), I finally got my unit upgraded to OS 6 which is a far cry from the previous. BlackBerry OS 6 brings BlackBerry units leaps forward as far as usability is concerned but still lags way behind popular platforms like iOS, Android, or Windows Phone 7. For what it’s worth BlackBerry OS 6 still is way better than Symbian Series 60 and Symbian^3. It’s an upgrade worth having, but make sure to bring along tons of patience before proceeding (better yet ask a friend to do it for you :D).
BlackBerry OS 6 makes better use of the keys by adding long presses, menus and options are more sensible, and it simply looks so much better than its predecessor which looked more like a graphical version of MS-DOS. It’s still sub par with other touch-optimized platforms but it’s quite fast, responsive, and even manage to squeeze in some transition effects.
BlackBerry App World lags way behind all other app stores in many aspects (including choices) and choosing the “best” GPS sports tracker was a “no-brainer” as there’s hardly any decent choice to be made. I picked Endomondo from the handful of choices because of its ease of use, it’s familiarity due to its presence in many platforms (including Android, iOS, Symbian, Windows Phone, etc.), web-sharing (file export), and it’s free! (PRO version costs $3.99)
Unfortunately though, as much as I liked the simplicity of its mobile software’s user interface, the same cannot be said for its online site which is quite cluttered. Still, you may just export your GPS data (tcx or gpx format) and view it from your preferred software or website.
Bye, Bye GF?!
Not quite. If you don’t have a Garmin Forerunner (or similar GPS device) and you have a BlackBerry at your disposal, well, this option is highly recommended as it’s free and results in similar results. The biggest downside though with this approach though is where to put your BlackBerry while you run. BlackBerry units aren’t exactly known to be petite and even so, it’s not convenient to carry it all throughout. It’s also not that easy to pause or stop your tracking so measuring your time accurately is practically impossible. The software options are also very limited, and even the paid ones don’t have enough customizable user options to be at par with similar software from other platforms, not to mention come close to Forerunners’. Overall, Garmin Forerunners are still are the best, but alternative, practical options do exist.