Hello again readers! Dear Berry is here once again with a mailbag full of BlackBerry questions and woes. Today's question comes from Justin who asks:

I know a few people who have picked up these older BBOS phones recently. Many of them have done so without changing to a BlackBerry-specific data plan with their carrier - One such person was using the SIM from his Android phone, for example, and was having trouble getting the phone to work as he believes it should. As I've got a Q10, and haven't had an active BBOS phone without a BlackBerry plan, I haven't been able to give him the answers he's looking for. What are the BBOS devices capable of doing over Wi-Fi alone, or with a generic/non-BlackBerry data plan? For example, should we still be able to use BBM, App World, and email? Are there any advanced tweaks or workarounds required to make certain features work, or any 3rd-party apps that might make up for the missing functionality?

Hi Justin,

Thank you for sending in this question. It is a very interesting one to say the least. This is what I know based on my experience.

For legacy BlackBerry devices, they do require a BlackBerry specific plan (i.e. BES or BIS) to operate correctly as it was operated through the carrier and through the BlackBerry NOC (Network Operating Center). Your friend who switched from Android and placed his SIM in an older device will find that the regular Non-BlackBerry internet service will not connect to the NOC or to the BIS plan that legacy devices require. Features may be limited as he is using a plan not meant for the device so BlackBerry specific apps such as BBM will not work.

However, speaking from experience, his carrier would be able to detect that the plan he has does not match the device his SIM is in and they may switch the plan over. For example, I once loaned a BlackBerry 8310 to a friend on another network when their non-BlackBerry daily driver stopped working. Within an hour they received a text that their data plan didn't match and that they were required to switch.

As a CrackBerry addict, I never gave away my older devices and have been using them on Wi-Fi only. Here is a list of features that work or do not work on Wi-Fi based on my usage for the past few years. Now please note I used my Bold 9900 and Torch 9800 as references for this guide. These may not work for older devices on OS 4.x or 5.x.

  • BBM - as it requires going through the NOC and a BlackBerry BIS carrier internet plan, it will not work on WiFi alone.
  • BlackBerry World - purchasing and installing apps and games will work on Wi-Fi on a legacy device as I have done so in the past with my BBID. Just make sure they have a BBID on the device is not the same one they have on their current one if they also have a BB10 one as well that is currently activated. You should continue receiving updates as well.
  • Email - if the carrier still supports BIS and the website for managing the account, have them login to their carrier specific website
    • You can locate the appropriate links to them with this post
    • If the email accounts are added here it should continue to be pushed to your legacy device via Wi-Fi. I have been able to send and receive emails from each of the email accounts on my device. However, please note that this requires that you remember your original login when you activated your plan. If forgotten, contacting your carrier's customer support line should be able to assist you with retrieving your information.
    • If this is not an option, then I have been able to access email by going directly through the browser (i.e. www.gmail.com)
  • Phone calls/SMS/MMS - if you have an active SIM in the device you should be able to receive and send phone calls, texts, and MMS. 
  • 3rd Party Apps - internet dependent apps such as Twitter, Touch, Molome, SocialScope, Slacker Radio, BeWeather, Tune-In Radio etc. should continue working. If you have any games, themes, or applications installed they should not be affected. Facebook may require access to the BlackBerry server as I found it does not work on Wi-Fi. However, I have not tried it with an active SIM that is on a non-BlackBerry plan.
  • Internet - You can browse the internet using Wi-Fi with no issue
  • BlackBerry applications​ - All of the built-in applications such as the calendar, media players, Docs to Go, alarm clock, Password Keeper, etc., should continue working on the device with or without a data plan.

For additional information please refer to these posts:

As you can see, the legacy devices are fairly functional without having the corresponding BlackBerry data plan. Although, the lack of BlackBerry Messenger is quite noticeable.

Now I turn it over to our CrackBerry readers. Do you have any further tips, tricks, or clarifications to help Justin and his friend? Be sure to join the conversation and let us know your thoughts on the matter!

See you next time!

Have a question about BlackBerry etiquette? Need advice on how to cope with your BlackBerry addiction? Dear Berry has you covered and there's no question too big or problem too small. Submit any of your BlackBerry woes by email to dearberry@crackberry.com or on Twitter @DearBerryCB.