Et tu, BlackBerry Protect? The terrible saga of a device switch fiasco

La Mort de César (by BlackBerry Protect)
By Joseph Holder on 18 Nov 2011 02:41 pm EST

I have been betrayed! The BlackBerry Protect application that I have lauded and recommended time and time again has - in my eyes - failed me. But let me back up a little (and turn the melodrama dial down from eleven).

The other day, I finally joined the OS7 masses, getting a brand new BlackBerry Torch 9860 (I really liked the CDMA version of the phone). I know, I know, I'm a little late to the game; but in my defense, so was my carrier. Anyway, whenever I do something on my BlackBerry I try to figure out how to turn it into an article. This article was going to be titled, "How lazy do you want to be? Switching devices using BlackBerry Protect." Sadly, this is not that article.

Now obviously, I wasn't expecting miracles. The BlackBerry Protect application only grabs a small portion of the data on your BlackBerry: contacts, calendars, SMS text messages, memos, and browser bookmarks. But between that service and the nearly ubiquitous BlackBerry ID, I figured it would be an easy transition to a new phone - no BlackBerry Desktop Software required. I was wrong.

Trouble from the Start 

BlackBerry Protect, where did my contacts go? 

Of all the data that BlackBerry Protect backs up wirelessly, I really only cared about my contacts. After going though the rigmarole of setting up BlackBerry Protect (which, by the way won't let you restore data until after you've agreed to the TOS/EULA - a fact that is not even remotely implied by the setup instructions), I expected to find all of my contacts waiting for me. Instead of finding over 100 contacts on my new phone, there were three. Since these were the three most recent contacts, I imagine this was some failing of an incremental backup that only saved recent changes. Whatever the exact problem, the result is still the same: Fail.

Setting aside the problems of missing contacts for a while, I next turned my attention to getting email working on my new phone. I've had a BlackBerry ID for a while, and many Research In Motion-designed applications use it - BlackBerry App World and BlackBerry News (Feeds) to name two. I was really hoping my ID would tie my old and new phones together so I wouldn't have to jump through hoops to get email working. Nope.

Every email address associated with your BlackBerry must have its password entered and verified. (I'll save my troubles with that particular system for another time.) In Research In Motion's defense, I believe this is a security measure to prevent unauthorized email access, but it's still an annoying step to have to take. As of this writing, I don't have access to three accounts because I can't remember their passwords. On the plus side, at least one of my email addresses had some synced data attached to it, and I got most of my contacts back (sorry Adam, my new BlackBerry doesn't like you.)

On to BlackBerry Messenger. Oh, no, Joseph, not BBM troubles, too? Yup. BBM has this nice feature that allows you to back up contacts using one of your BlackBerry-associated email address. Trouble is, it didn't work for me. I know for a fact that I've used that backup feature before installing BlackBerry Beta Zone stuff. Sadly, when I tried to recover those contacts, none could be restored. Thankfully, I figured out a way to import the contacts using a saved local file and a couple of USB cables.

The Lesson of Today's Story

When I set out to switch BlackBerry Smartphones, I knew I wouldn't get everything. Received emails would be lost, apps wouldn't transfer, and BlackBerry Messenger might be a little wonky for a little while. I didn't know it would turn into a multi-hour ordeal of frustration and swearing. Rather than writing the article I wanted - about how easy it is to switch devices - I'm writing one about how difficult that process is. The moral of this unfortunate saga is two-fold.

First, to Research In Motion, what happened? Why didn't Protect transfer my contacts? What happened to my BBM contacts? Why is it so difficult to restart email services on my Smartphone? If my name were Joe Everyperson - and not Joseph Holder, CrackBerry blogger extraordinaire - the first thing I might have done is turn around and take this phone back to the store.

When selling Smartphones to the consumer, that end-user ease of use is one of - if not the - most important factors. I really thought that RIM was making great strides in this with their BlackBerry ID, but that has not been the case. I yearn for the day when my new phone asks for my BlackBerry ID and then hourglasses for a few minutes as all my old data is pulled onto the new phone. There is certainly a security issue with that scenario - and there's always a balance that must be struck between security and convenience - but Research In Motion knows security. If anyone can figure it out, they can.

I understand why things work better in the factory than in the wider world, though. As people who design and build these phones day in and day out, the average user's experience just doesn't come into play. It's pretty much a given that programmer and users do not think alike. That's why beta testing these phones and services in real-world situations is so very important - something that the BlackBerry Beta Zone has done a fantastic job at. In fact, if RIM wants to send me a new phone every month to Beta test, I'll be more than happy to do my best to break it. After all, that is what a good beta tester does.

Finally, my readers, a bit of advice for you. In the past, I've been quite happy to share my foibles with you. If I managed to cause some horrid foul-up with my Smartphone, at least you don't have to suffer with the same problems. Today is no exception.

Use BlackBerry Desktop Software to switch between your phones. Had I simply gone the "lazy" route and hooked my phones up to my computer, none of this would have happened. The Device Switch Wizard in BBDS would have prevented all of these problems. After less than half an hour, my new phone would have had all of my contacts, all of my email address, all of my BBM contacts updated with my new PIN, all of my previous emails, and even the majority of the apps that were installed on my BlackBerry Torch 9800. In short, BlackBerry Desktop Software is the easiest, simplest, best way to switch between BlackBerry Smartphones; use it.

Now, if you'll excuse me I still have some apps to install. And some Facebook friends to connect to my BlackBerry contacts. Ditto for BBM contacts. And some email account passwords to look up. And some Wi-Fi networks...

Reader comments

Et tu, BlackBerry Protect? The terrible saga of a device switch fiasco


Well, like I said, I wanted to write an article about how you could switch without using BB Desktop Software. I try to do everything first-hand before I write about it. If I had just tried to research the answer, I never would have discovered these problems. 

You mention BlackBerry ID. I don't think pre-OS7 devices linked your email accounts to your BlackBerry ID but perhaps I'm wrong. I believe GSM SIM-based devices are simpler to switch over. I remember when I switched devices a while back, as soon as I put in my old SIM in the new phone, it automatically detected that I was switching devices. I don't remember the details though.

Looks like you were asking for BlackBerry Protect to do far more than it can. Lesson to be learned for sure.


Because doing things the easy way doesn't test the supposedly more "convenient" ways offered. In either case, both methods are a dreadful experience. BBDM is one of the worst pieces of software out there, pretty much on par with iTunes so any chance to try something else is welcomed.

I don't recall RIM every saying to use BlackBerry Protect as a means to switch devices. It's limited to only a few items.

I've used the DM Switch Device wizard a number of times and it has been flawless in migrating all my stuff from one berry to another.

Contacts are not backed up by BBprotect if you have them synced with your email address.. found that out yesterday with similar scenario as yours... Gmail/Hotmail contact lists returned later once I reactivated the emails... : ) pretty good... I dont want to endup with duplicates of my contacts everywhere..

but the lame part is.. BBM contacts... what the hell RIM? Why do I need to back up my BBM contacts separately? Why BBprotect cant grab those with the rest of my data?

Had an angry twitter post last night about that.

Bad luck Joseph, that sucks. For the record I've recently done two device switches (to a 9900 and a 9860) and both were v smooth using BB Protect, so it can have the desired effect. Enjoy the 9860, agree that it's a really nice phone.

The last paragraph is classic. Well written.
I have never actually used the device switch wizard on DM, I simply make a backup of my previous device and load that on the new one. Maybe next time I'll give the wizard a try.

great article!
ive alway found that some of the joy of getting a new phone is setting everything up, but i know when i bought my new 9810 it took me close to 2 days to get it just right... talk about a pain in the butt. i know im planning on staying with bb for a long time to come (i came back from apple) and i think that bbds is the way to go when my upgrade comes in a few years.

This is something RIM really ought to be able to do. They own much, if not all, of the ecosystem---like Apple, they should be able to do this.

And right now, you can, but it's slightly harder than it should be.

It's a pity, too, since Apple just rolled out a product that does pretty much this and does it flawlessly.

The right tool for the right job.
Use BB DM to do weekly back-up and this will never be a problem. Also, using DM you can just do a device switch and it all works fine. No additional steps and all security maintained.

I did the Blackberry Protect device switch between a 9530 and a 9860 everything went well and all my data was transfered without hiccups...

I wonder why do we blog when things go wrong and not when things go right.....

I was under the impression that BBDM was there for device switching and BB Protect was there for lost equipment... Nice article though... Thanks for the heads up =)

Style + Playbook 64gb

I recently had to get a swap 9860 after the first one bricked itself, and went through a very similar situation.

I tried restoring my phone through BB Protect, and same as you, I got three or four contacts in my contact list. I decided to try and restore it through Blackberry desktop software, only tom find out that my contact list was shaded out in the list of items available to restore. According to Desktop manager, it was read only and could not be restored.

I ended up inputting every single contact in by hand, which took forever, the only saving grace is I deleted many contacts that were only in there because I never delete a contact once they go in my phone.

Very irritating to say the least!

On the plus side...with the OS7 devices you can make a backup of all your info onto your memory card, and then pop the memory card into the new phone and restore all your data again. It takes everything that the DM option backsup/restores and it's pretty convenient.

I get that it only works with OS7-OS7 switch, but i mean going forward for you in case you decide to switch to a 9900 or something.

I feel for you! Who has the time to take forever to move into a new device?

The bad news is, DM is a drag. It has bricked my 9850 twice. Trust is forever broken. I now only use it to sync with Outlook. For software updates I will only use Apploader.

The worst news is ... you and I aren't average users! Honestly ... I love my Berries. But if it wasn't for CB I wouldn't know how to use half of the features and would have ended up flushing my BB over what seemed like unsolvable problems. Noboday can expect complex devices to be as easy as an idevice. However, they had better get a lot more user friendly in order for RIM to survive. I can't even guess how many DAYS of my life have been wasted doodling around with my phones.

What does it mean when my trust is so low that I have to wait to do software updates until I have time to deal with a disaster?

Try to download the apps that you have purchased on your 9800 see if you got the same "purchase service error. (error id 30220)" that i'm getting!

The problem restoring contacts is about Contact Lists... For example, I really don't know why but I have 13 contacts in the Default list and 256 contacts in the Unknown list... When I tried to switch device using BBProtect I just got back the 13 contacts from the Default list....
There's an option under Options---> Device ------> Advanced ------> Default services where u can choose wich is the default Contact list for sync.... So choosing unknown list now I'm just losing 13 contacs and restoring 256...
To "move" contacts from one list to another (very important if u'r using vlingo cause u can call only contacts listed in the Default list u choose under Default services) it's a different and hard story... and u need your device, the desktop software and another clean device as listed here...

Finally please excuse me for my really bad english.
Fabio - Italy

I had similar issues with restoring my BBM contacts, which was very weird. I had added a contact in BBM to my first 9930. Switching that for my second 9930, I was not able to restore my contacts so I was forced to restore via an old backup that did not have this new added contact. Figuring that I'll get this contact at a later time I left it out and proceeded to have BBM backup m contacts. Well moving onto my third and current 9930 I went back to restore my BBM contacts thinking it would restore the previous backup with that missing contact, but instead of doing that it restored everything including the missing one. Not sure what happened, but it's because of things like this that I'm skeptical of BBProtect and will only rely on it if that's the last option.

All this says to me that RIM's "cloud services" are still not fully baked. Apple is touting its "content anywhere" products and this is clearly the direction the market is headed. If RIM wants to be around in the near future, it needs to get stuff like this right.

Think about the day when we no longer have desktops and we all rely on the smartphone/tablet combination to do our work and communications. These devices will be totally dependent on the "cloud" to be materially useful. As RIM discovered with BBX, device data aggregation is one of the complexities and necessary requirements for this market trend.

All that said....thanks Joe for sharing this experience. Let's hope some RIM folks are "listening".

Sorry to hear about your trouble with BLACKBERRY protct and BLACKBERRY I'd.. Mine worked flawlessly when I did it.

Personally, I think that it's pretty reasonable to bring over your settings and ask that you re-enter your password to get your email flowing again. Otherwise, someone could get access to all of your email accounts if they figured out your BBID password. And I really don't think that it's fair to blame RIM because you forgot your own email account passwords. Your passwords, your responsibility.

I can't even get to the Blackberry Protect home page, their email sent me an auto-reply and their twitter "help" account never responded to me.

Thankfully all I am trying to do is set this up as a backup. Remote wipe is what I really want.

For contacts, Google Sync has served me best between platforms.

Oh well.

Strange it didn't work for you. Worked seamlessly for me when I got my 9930. Also for a friend of mine who switched torches.

I just back up my BBM contacts on my memory card. Its like 33KB off the memory card and it works flawlessly. If you for any reasons forget your email password;it is probably a good idea to use the"text password reset to phone"option that all three email clients I use have.For my contacts I always have a backup done once a week through DM because its a solid choice for contact back-up but I also use a 3rd party app for o.t.a convience. Contacts warrant having a few back ups. I mean I couldn't imagine having to type back in everyone's emails,phone numbers,ringtones,picture,pin etc.Anyway its been smooth for me everytime I've switched but thanks for the article it was ..enlightining.

I switched carriers and phones, going from a Curve 8350 to a Torch 9860, and also used BlackBerry Protect to back up my data and download it to the new unit. My experience was flawless and seamless. BB Protect did exactly what it was supposed to do. I was so impressed with it that I turned all of my friends that use BlackBerry phones on to it.

I had trouble with the BBM contact backup as well the last couple of times I tried it. I did use Protect for everything else not running through my Google account, though, and it worked quickly and easily.

I want to stick up for BBDM: the old version (5 or whatever I had) always did a great job of backing up my device, contacts, email etc. I didn't particularly admire the interface and let v5(or whatever languish on my desktop for far too long). I couldn't image that the upgrade was going to be much better and never thought the upgrade to be worth the time. V6.1.0.35, to which I upgraded on a whim, was a delightful surprise. Much cleaner interface, much more intuitive more media-savvy, etc. I've restored my device several times after trying various updates to OSs', etc. Couldn't be happier with this thing.

And can I please caution everyone: please, please!!! Don't back ANYTHING up to the CLOUD!!!

This isn't about conspiracy theories, this is about temptation and about keeping people honest. This isn't about adult sites or anything dirty or whatever. This is about the value of your list of contacts. This is about the value of the experience that YOU have accumulated.

In sales, your customer list is probably your greatest asset. And this is just a phonebook in an phone somewhere. When you put that on a cloud you are creating a huge temptation for people who manage that could. THey want to do the right thing, but then they've got this INCREDIBLY valuable asset (the phonebooks of 1000s of people) sitting right there, staring them in the face. It's only a matter of time (think Ren & Stimpy and the "Jolly Candy-like button").

If your contacts are important to you keep them important to you and KEEP THEM PRIVATE.

Not trying to preach, just trying to present a different side to this argument. Your privacy isn't about "well, if you're not doing wrong, you've got nothing to hide."

This is about, "If you're doing something RIGHT you've got a lot to hide! If you're building a good business, if you're building a list of friends and colleagues who are knowledgeable and helpful that's worth something. Don't go just handing this s**t over to people YOU DON'T KNOW and WILL NEVER MEET."

Even using BBDS, switching phones is not for the faint of heart. I've done the whole jail break thing on a couple of Windows phones, so I felt pretty comfortable switching phones myself, when my 9780 began acting up a week ago.

New phone in hand, I started the process yesterday morning. Really, the switching wasn't that bad. I do have BB Protect, but I didn't bother with it, since I had the desktop backups, as well as all of my calendar and contacts saved in Outlook. After a couple of hours, I was all switched over to the new device and the old device was in the box ready to go back. That's when I attempted to open my first app...

To be fair, most of the apps are fairly user friendly, most simply requiring an email to support to get a new code. Worth mentioning is Vlingo and Buzzoff - they worked flawlessly and no contact to support was required. Unfortunately, a couple of apps don't work and the support is slow - we'll see what happens over the next couple of days (are you listening Timeme?)

The thing that hacked me off was my own stupidity at being such a BB noob. This morning I noticed the new phone needed an OS upgrade, so I upgraded it - and had the joy of verifying email services and all of the apps again.

But it is all done now and is working well. Sorry about your experience. If I truly lost my contacts and/or calendar, I would be devastated.

I recently used Blackberry Protect to help a friend switch phones with no problems. For me my PIM data (contacts, calendar, tasks and notes) are important. I sync my PIM data to Outlook daily just in case my DM backup or Blackberry Protect backup doesn't restore correctly. I'm not too concerned with apps as I can always download them again.

Recently I helped a friend switch his trusty Bold 9000 to the new Bold 9900 via Blackberry Protect. The gap between the two was night and day. OS 4.6 to OS 7.0. He never updated his Bold 9000.

Of course, this is in my opinion not the best way to perform a device switch. My ideal method is to use desktop manager, perform a full backup of all the old device. Then plug in the new device and just restore and wait for completion.

However, he wanted only a few things like his contacts and email accounts working. The other stuff were secondary, so my focus was to get those stuff in. So performed the backup on Blackberry Protect, and it was done. I shut off the old device, took out the sim card.

Fired up the new device with the sim card inside. Once it detected BIS and push Blackberry Protect, I just like proceeded like (when reinstalled a newer version of Blackberry Protect) normal.

Then it asked for him to key-in, his Blackberry ID. (This part is abit blur in my memory) After picking restore, it will show a list of previous backup made with this ID, and just hit restore (or whatever the word is) and wait. If i'm not mistaken, Blackberry Protect also shows the date and size of the file you selected, so you can tell if it's the right one or not. (Not just by file name which can be rather confusing)

Later will need to verify some of the emails and it will start receiving emails and loading up BBM contacts after that. (Though my advice is always make a local backup, i.e. saving on Media Card when it comes to BBM contacts)

I think he has been using the device since that upgrade without complains. So i guess everything is working fine. :)

I guess you were looking for what you can do with BES? The process is much less painless if you are on BES. Once bes admin updates your pin, you can sync the device ota with all contacts/emails/memo/tasks/calendar (all contacts created on BB are saved in outlook/exchange and vice-versa). As far as I remember, BES also knows the BIS email address tied to the account and it pushed all the BIS accounts automatically as well (or might have to update pin on bis website). BES restores lot of more crazy stuff like bookmarks, browser history, call logs, etc. I think it restored BBM or I might have used the restore inside BBM for that. Did not need to use DM.

BBProtect is typical RIM software product. Not fully thought through, carelessly implemented and not tested. A good management could handle such things. So Mike, when will you give RIM the much needed releave and step down???

Protect worked flawlessly for me but maybe because it was between OS6 devices. Perhaps it had something to do with your backup settings on the old device.

Nah, it worked flawlessly for me going from a bold 9650 on verizon to a torch 9810 on att, same phone switch for my wife, and a curve with os5 to a torch 9860 for our son. I think a whole lot of rims "problems" lie between the chair and the keyboard...if you catch my drift.

I'm on my first BB and I've never switched devices. I used to use Nokia's bluetooth feature to switch phones and although it was slow it worked all the time.

I did switch from a torch 9800 to a curve 9360 without any problem using only BB Protect. I don't think it's generalized.

BlackBerry ID was the bane existence a few weeks ago. I remember the days when I could swap SIM cards as i travelled across borders without any thought or worry....then they made OS7. I switched providers a few weeks big deal I thought. It's RIM, it's all good; take one SIM out and put the other in. INCORRECT. As soon as I put the new SIM in my 9900, BBID shows up to login. Unfortunately, I need a data connection for it to verify my login. I can't get a data connection UNTIL i login in and my phone registers itself on the network. Nice endless loop. Solution? Put my old deactivated SIM in the phone, backup, put new SIM in, wipe phone, restore. Conclusion? I miss I bought a Curve 9300 to travel with.