Tomorrow BoxTone will announce a new product called myBoxTone Expert. The product addresses a problem that has not been thought about for any smartphone, let alone a BlackBerry. That is the problem of helping a BlackBerry user with issues that may arise on their device. After seeing our pal Al Sacco make mention of the app this morning, I just had to get myBoxTone Expert up and running on my BlackBerry Bold. Continue reading after the jump for a whole lot more on this excellent enterprise application.
myBoxTone Expert is an application that is installed on your BlackBerry. It runs in the background and continually monitors your BlackBerry for problems. If it detects one or more problems, the myBoxTone Expert icon changes from green to yellow or red to visually indicate something is going wrong or has already gone wrong.
If you click the icon you are presented with any alerts. If you click on an alert, myBoxTone Expert will tell you about the alert and suggest a way to fix the problem. The description of the problem and the instructions given to resolve the problem are not technical and are designed to be read and followed by any BlackBerry user no matter if they are a novice or an expert.
Figure 1: Current Alerts
Figure 2: Suggested resolution to alert
If you encounter a problem and still cannot correct it, myBoxTone Expert gives you some tools to help. If you have a company supplied BlackBerry you probably have a Help Desk that you can call. If you do not have a company supplied BlackBerry, you would likely call your carrier for support. Either way, while you have them on the phone, you can use myBoxTone to help them help you.
For example, myBoxTone Expert allows you to take a screen shot of any BlackBerry screen, including the myBoxTone Expert screens and then email that screen shot to your HelpDesk or support team. This is very useful because many times it is hard to describe exactly what you are seeing on your screen and a screen shot will immediately clarify the situation to your support personal.
Once you enable the screen shot function, the myBoxTone Screenshot menu item will appear in all application menus.
Figure 3: Screenshot menu item
Once you select the menu item, myBoxTone Expert prompts you to either send an email with the screen shot attached, save the screen shot to your My Pictures, or both. This is very useful in a situation where you do not have coverage, or the issue you are calling about is loss of service. If you choose to save the screen shot to My Pictures, then you can connect your BlackBerry to a computer, and copy off the image and then email it from the computer.
myBoxTone Expert also has an alternative method of screen shots which allow you to set a timer. You set the timer and once it expires it will take the screen shot. The LED indicator on the BlackBerry will flash faster and faster indicating the screen shot time is nearing. This option is to work around some third party applications that prevent the screenshot menu item from being added.
While on with your support team, you can also get myBoxTone Expert to pull up information on your BlackBerry. This information is very detailed and includes the list of installed applications and the list of service books on your BlackBerry along with available memory, PIN number, etc. Since this information is being gathered on your BlackBerry, it is more accurate than information about your device that may be visible on a corporate BlackBerry server. Once you have this information on screen, you can email it, or save it to a Note on your BlackBerry. Saving it as a Note on your BlackBerry is useful when you are not in coverage since the Note can be synchronized to your email program on your computer.
myBoxTone Expert also has a Trends screen. This screen shows you a trend of your BlackBerry's signal strength, memory (RAM and Flash), data sent and received, and time spent on the phone. This information is very useful when diagnosing an issue. For example, if you available memory is being reduced by some rogue application you installed, it would be hard to figure out. However if you look at a trend of this information, you can see when the memory reduction began, and how quickly it reduces over time. Without this trend, you would just know that at some point you ran out of memory.
System administrators can also make use of this feature to monitor the effect that a new BlackBerry application has out in the field.
Figure 4: Trend screen
Once again, you can send this information to your support team. myBoxTone Expert will take a screen shot of the trend screen and email it.
The final myBoxTone Expert screen is the Home screen. This screen provides information on the mobile network, battery, and memory.
For the network it will provide the carrier name, signal strength, status of enterprise email, and status of the data connection. For Battery it will not only display the current percentage of battery remaining, but it will display a real world estimate of how long the battery will last based on your usage patterns. This bit of information is extremely useful because it is based on your usage. It will also display the percentage change in the last hour.
For memory it will display the amount of memory available, but put it in user friendly terms, like how many pictures that memory can hold. As before, this screen can be emailed to your support personnel.
Figure 5: Home screen
myBoxTone Expert also includes little touches like a menu item to call or email your help desk. The email address and phone number can be pre-programmed by your BlackBerry administrator through the use of IT Policies. In fact the entire functionality of myBoxTone Expert can be controlled via IT Policy. For example, they can disable certain alerts, like alerts that popup when you are roaming.
Figure 6: Enable/Disable Alerts
BoxTone is clearly aiming this product for the enterprise based on how it is priced. It is an extremely useful tool for enterprise BlackBerry users and enterprise support teams. It will cut down on the amount of time it takes to resolve a held desk call, and it will cut down on the number of calls the help desk receives since the user can help resolve the problem right on the device.
I am hoping that BoxTone makes this available to every BlackBerry user. I can see how this will help many non-enterprise BlackBerry users keep their devices running smoothly, not to mention helping when they need to call their carrier's support line.
To use myBoxTone Expert your BlackBerry must be running handheld code 4.2 or later. Handheld code 4.3 or later allows myBoxTone Expert to send those screen shots so it would be more useful if you were running 4.3 or later. BlackBerry handheld code 4.2 is only available for BlackBerry 8700 series and later so those of you still using the 7200 series or earlier, you are out of luck.
I am excited by the possibilities that this tool brings to the BlackBerry world. It is very innovative and should have a big impact on BlackBerry usage and support.
myBoxTone Expert will be generally available on November 10th but if you would like to get in on the pilot now, head over to http://boxtone.com/myboxtone/
[ Craig Johnston is the author of Professional BlackBerry and is CrackBerry.com's Podcast co-host and resident enterprise guru and all-round BlackBerry expert. If you have an enterprise application or topic that you would like to have addressed by Craig, send him an email at crackberrycraig @ crackberry.com. ]