RIM BlackBerry Sync Pod for Storm Review: Syncin’ in Style

By Al Sacco on 11 Feb 2009 12:45 pm
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BlackBerry Sync Pod for the BlackBerry Storm

The official name of the Research In Motion (RIM) syncing and charging cradle for the Storm is the BlackBerry Sync Pod, though the accessory does much more than merely sync data between a smartphone and a PC. The BlackBerry Sync Pod also charges your Storm and acts as a cradle for better screen positioning while watching video clips or listening to music. And it automatically puts your device in speaker-phone-mode if calls come in while in use so there’s no need to remove the Storm from the Sync Pod to answer.

For the most part, the Storm Sync Pod delivers on RIM’s promise to provide a stylish and effective new way to transfer data, music, photos, and videos back and forth between your Storm and a PC.  But the lack of such features as an LED or other indicator to signal when syncing and/or charging are complete hinder its overall performance.

The BlackBerry Sync Pod is a worthy addition to any Storm owner’s accessory arsenal, but it’s far from perfect. Hit the jump for my reasons why.

In Sync – The Good Stuff

The best thing about the Storm Sync Pod is its appearance, and the fact that it truly compliments the design of the already-stunning BlackBerry Storm.  The Sync Pod was clearly created with the Storm aesthetic in mind, as its long lines and smooth curves match the device perfectly. RIM really hit the nail on the head with the BlackBerry Sync Pod’s looks; whether the Storm’s in place or the Sync Pod’s empty on your desk, it’s sure to grab eyes.

Like the Storm, the Sync Pod is not only pretty, it’s functional. In fact, I was able to perform every single data transfer task I attempted on the Storm, with the exception of a manual data backup via PC and BlackBerry Desktop Manager v4.7. However, I was also unable to perform this type of backup using just a micro USB cable and no Sync Pod, so I believe the problem is related to the buggy beta OS I’m currently running (v4.7.0.90) and not the pod. I was able to sync music (via BlackBerry Media Sync for Mac), transfer photos and videos and upgrade my Storm’s OS (via Desktop Manager) all using the BlackBerry Sync Pod.  The data backup even worked via Sync Pod when I performed it as part of an OS update. And I added the Facebook for BlackBerry and Flickr apps to my Storm via Sync Pod, by using RIM’s online application loading process.

View from Behind the Sync Pod
A Look with the Storm Docked in the Pod

The Sync Pod doesn’t block any important ports or other Storm components while the device is in place, though it does plug into the Storm’s microUSB port and its convenience key is blocked when the pod’s in use.  If charging/syncing, your Storm automatically turns on its speakerphone when a call comes in if you answer without undocking the device. This features works well, but the Storm’s less-than-impressive speaker means audio quality is hollow and weak.

The BlackBerry Sync Pod doesn’t increase the overall BlackBerry Storm power-up time; it takes roughly three and a half hours to charge a completely dead Storm standard battery, whether you’re using the Sync Pod and an AC travel charger or the travel charger alone.

The Storm Sync Pod is well designed for watching video or navigating through music collections with a device is in place; when in the pod, the Storm sits at roughly a 110 to 120 degree angle to the surface it’s on.  And your device automatically goes into Bedside Mode, turning the Storm into a clock, whenever it’s attached to a power source. I wish the BlackBerry Sync Pod had a swivel-hinge built-in so you could adjust the Storm viewing angle while the device is in the pod, but the default angle works well enough. 

I’m familiar with RIM’s BlackBerry Desktop Charging Pod for the BlackBerry Pearl and Curve, and while these products are similar in design to the BlackBerry Sync Pod, the new Storm cradle blows them out of the water when it comes to functionality. First and foremost, that’s because the Sync Pod can sync data, while the older models were meant strictly for charging. It’s also significantly larger, which means more gripped-rubber on its base, so it sits more sturdily on your desktop.

The price of the BlackBerry Sync Pod is about right—at least if you’re looking in the CrackBerry Shop.  At just $29.95 from ShopCrackBerry.com, the BlackBerry Sync Pod for Storm is not only a steal, it’s a full $20, or 40 percent, cheaper than what RIM’s asking on ShopBlackBerry.com.  And $30 is a very reasonable price for the BlackBerry Sync Pod.

Out of Sync – The Not-So-Good Stuff

The first negative thing that jumped out at me about the BlackBerry Sync Pod is the fact that it does not come with an AC charger or a micro USB sync cable. In fact, the Sync Pod doesn’t come with anything else, but a thin sheet of instructions and the bubble wrap it’s packed in. This seems slightly more acceptable to me when I consider the Shop.CrackBerry.com price of $29.99. But RIM is asking for $50 for the pod in its store. For $50, you ought to get both a new travel charger and a micro USB sync cable.  Even at $30, the BlackBerry Sync Pod should ship with at least a new USB sync cable.

Secondly, there’s currently no simple way to determine when your device is finished charging or syncing without physically touching the device and checking the battery meter.  There’s a small, thin panel on the top of the BlackBerry Sync Pod that lights up when it’s plugged into a wall outlet or your PC. But the panel only glows white, and it doesn’t turn off when data transfer or powering up is complete. (It’s also not visible from the front when the device is in place, but that’s really a non-issue since the panel doesn’t do much anyway)

The Bottom of the Charger
Bottom of the Sync Pod

The product would be more valuable if there was an LED or other indicator that signaled when a sync or charge was complete. More specifically, the BlackBerry logo on the front of the Sync Pod—which currently serves no purpose other than branding—could glow when your Storm’s charging and then turn off when it’s done. And the logo could glow another color during data syncing and turn off when complete.

One of the reasons the Storm stays in place so well while seated in the BlackBerry Sync Pod is the fact that the fit is so tight.  The Storm slides down into the Sync Pod and there’s little room for movement. That’s a good thing and a bad thing: It’s a good because your Storm largely stays put once placed in the pod; but it’s bad because the Storm won’t fit in the BlackBerry Sync Pod when equipped with any sort of skin, case or larger, third-party battery.  Not even the thin, OEM skin RIM makes for the Storm will fit into the Sync Pod. This may not be such a big deal for folks with simple skins like RIM’s, but Storm owners with protective cases like the OtterBox for Storm will want to steer clear of the Sync Pod, unless they can deal with repeated removal and replacement of their cases.  External batteries that add bulk to your Storm, like Seidio’s 2600mAh battery, will also need to be removed before the device fits in the Sync Pod.

The BlackBerry Sync Pod’s footprint is rather large, so make sure you’ve got room on your desktop or bureau before picking one up.  And the shiny, onyx-like surface inside the pod, where the Storm sits, seems to scrape easily—though the shiny silver outer is much more scratch-resistant.

It’s also worth noting that RIM’s ShopBlackBerry.com says the BlackBerry Sync Pod is compatible only with the Storm 9530 device, though I can’t confirm this, as I don’t have any others Storm models, such as the 9500.

Conclusion

The BlackBerry Sync Pod for Storm is a great-looking and functional accessory that each and every Storm owner could benefit from. The pod makes charging and syncing data between your BlackBerry Storm and a PC simpler and more fun.  And it serves as a great-looking and effective holder for your RIM smartphone when you’re watching video, listening to music, taking speakerphone calls or using it as a bedside alarm clock.

And at just $29.99 from the CrackBerry Shop, your wallet won’t feel too much lighter after the purchase.

While the Sync Pod does everything RIM promises, its lack of such basic features such as a charge/sync progress indicator, and the fact that it doesn’t come with a spare travel charger or even a sync cord, mean the product’s less valuable than it could be with just a couple of minor design modifications.


Al Sacco is a staff writer with CIO.com. His Mobile WorkHorse blog was recently nominated for a Jesse H. Neal Award for excellence in business journalism.


Summary: RIM BlackBerry Sync Pod for Storm

Pros:
  • Great looking and functional
  • Allows for both charging, via AC adapter or USB cord, and as syncing via USB
  • Doesn’t increase charging time over traditional power-up methods
  • Very reasonable price on Shop.CrackBerry.com

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with travel charger or USB cord, so you’ll need to employ your own
  • No indicator for charge/sync progress
  • All cases/skins/extended batteries etc. must be removed or Storm won’t fit in Sync Pod

Ratings:

Design and Function: 4/5
Fit and Finish: 4/5
Aesthetics: 5/5
Ease of Use: 5/5
Performance: 3/5

Purchase:

Available Now at ShopCrackBerry.com >>

29 comments

Summett

Sure wish the Bold charging pod had the syncing capabilities like this storm one. Nice!

richs10

That's a good review of the Sync Pod, however I disagree with a few points.
- I've had my pod for about three weeks now. I keep it on my bedside table. I like that the clockface dims nicely when the phone is in the pod so it doesn't distract me when I'm trying to fall asleep. For this reason, I am happy there is no LED on the pod, which would be very distracting at night.
- I think the light on the back of the pod was intended as a night light. It casts a very faint but nice glow on my wall at night. I like that.
- Finally, I have GhostArmor installed on my Storm and it fits very well into the pod. It was a little tight at first, but over time the skin (or the pod) has adjusted. I can remove the Storm from the pod with one hand with just a little effort. A friend's Storm with BestSkinsEver will not fit in the pod.

thenard

If the pod had an indicator LED on the front, I would consider the pod completely useless for me. As stated in a previous comment, I have my pod on my nightstand and my Storm goes into it each night. If it had a steady-on or blinking LED, I would not be able to leave it on my nightstand. I think this was RIM's intention, to allow you to use it as a bedside clock with as little annoyance as possible.

Love my pod ...

paulmac

I have to echo previous comment. I use the invisashield on my storm and at first was a little tight, but now slips in and out easily.

chuckh0308

I have two of them and think they're awesome. Last I looked, Verizon was selling them for $22 and Newegg had them for $16 or something. Honestly, I never even thought about having an indicator LED, but then I never thought of a reason for it to have one. One is in the bedroom so I can prop the phone up and use it as an alarm clock and let it charge while I sleep. The one on my desk is only used for transferring files. As for the light on top, I thought it was just there to assist in finding the cradle in the dark. That's what I use it for anyway. Sure beats having the cables hanging all over the place and trying to find the end!

CasyCasy

This was my second accessory purchase. First was the car charger. I leave this at work and it's AWESOME. I can leave it in time mode and it looks like a regular clock. It's a great accessory for the Storm....

AfricanAmericanBerry

I wanted one but didn't get it because I was unimpressed with the fact that it didn't come with any cables at all. I had hoped for an additional charging adaptor... but they could have at least included a transfer cable.

hmmmmft.

WarER4X

I wish that the pod had a sync button on it similar to Palm docking stations. That is something I have missed about my Palm ever since I started using a Blackberry. Still, I'm quite fond of the this accessory. I especially like how the phone fits on and off of it so easily, but with tight tolerance and I also like that it has some weight to it to keep it from moving around while I'm pushing on the Storm's screen when it is in the pod. At some point, I plan to get a few more: one for my other office desk, one for my night stand and one for my wife's night stand (for her Storm). I do agree that they should at least come with a USB cable.

-SR-

PhantomS10

Got my poc two days ago and use it on my nightstand. Haven't tried it yet but may get another to use in the truck if it will work with the car charger plugged in instead of the wll charger. I don't see a need for another cable since I can only use one at a time.

infamyx

I'm purdy sure this set me back 30 dollars when i bought it from Verizon awhile ago (i got it like in the middle of December)

It does have a light on the top thats not too overbearing at night, and to really echo what everyone has said, its meant for more than just synching data.

I love the fact that as soon as i slip my baby down into its cradle it enters bedside mode and dims down since i use my phone as my alarm clock and i cannot sleep with any bright lights on (the one LED on my surround sound to let you know its powered off is annoying to the point where i leave it on aux just so the light stays off)

My one beef with this is i have one of the silicon covers from Verizon (it says blackberry right above the back speaker) and you have to pull it off before you can put it in the cradle, which is how i ripped the cases.

Other than that i love this cradle, very classy and professional looking be it in the office, or in the bedroom you really cant go wrong with it.

Anon

I have two as well, one for my desk at work and one for my bedside table at home. I think they look great and do their job, but I have one small quibble. I find I cannot put the storm in or take it out gracefully or without pressing the screen. I don't know how to solve this, but a couple of times I have dropped the storm while trying to put it in or take it out of the cradle. The curves of the storm and the cradle look graceful, but make it a little awkward for putting the phone in and taking it out.

chuckh0308

Not sure how to describe this, but try this method for removing the phone. Put your thumb around the left side and your middle finger around the right side. Then use your fourth finger to push down on the cradle while pulling up with your thumb and middle finger. Hope that makes sense! Works well for me!

highos

I'm also quite disappointed there is no extra sync cable or charging cable provided. Also as was mentioned in the article, that there is no way to tell when it is fully charged can be somewhat annoying.

I did have a faulty and/or broken dock in the first week of usage. I bough it from a Telus retailer, so they had no problems swapping it when I brought it back. What started to happen is that when I put my storm into the dock, the connector would not always hook up properly and charge/sync with BB DM. Was quite annoying for the first little bit until I realized what was going on. I find the connector to also be fairly lose on the new one I have, but so far it has stood up a lot better then the initial one. Other then that, fairly happy with it. Feel somewhat ripped off for having bough it retail, but that is my own fault! ;-)

Have had my Storm since Dec 10. Keep em coming, awesome device once you get use to it. Updated firmware can only make it better now!

Gym

I can confirm it works with the 9500. It sits on my monitor stand making it perfectly viewable, but I agree, the lack of bundled AC adapter or USB cable is nuts.

I have the Zagg Invisible Shield on my Storm and even this makes the fit extremely tight. It's firm push to get it in, and a two handed job to get it back out of the pod but I appreciate the tolerances to make it slide in and connect were pretty thin to start with.

John1234

Got one from Amazon.com for $17.00 it works well and is perfect for holding my storm. I also like how the storm goes into flip-clock mode when placed in the pod so you can use it like a regular clock as well.

Phatric

This feature is dubious, at best.

It does NOT automatically put my storm into speaker-phone mode.

...It's actually quite annoying. Two other co-workers have shared their dislike for this wrongly advertised feature.

Perhaps there is a setting "while in cradle"... but as far as it working "automatically"...i don't believe it works as advertised.

Important to note: Many people believe the BB logo in the front of the cradle glows... some online retailers (NOT THIS ONE) mentions that it does. Rest assured (or dissatisfied, i guess) that it does NOT light up.

dudechewy

i got mine a couple of days ago....love it

Imgir

I own two of these babies and I think they are great! You can tell when your sync is done when the screen goes back to the clock display and your charge is complete when you see your battery indicator no longer has the lightning bolt through it. What more do you really need?

I keep one of them beside my bed and a blinking LED is exactly what I don't want when I'm trying to sleep.

BEDSIDE MODE RULES!

I also have my Storm protected by a Shield skin and although a little stiff at first, as the Shield skin has a rubberized feel to it, my phone slips into and out of the cradle quite easily.

tuxtech

Next time CB does a review on a product that "syncs" your Storm, please let it be an accessory that assists this poor excuse for a Blackberry to the bottom of the lake!

Blank

Storm is a great Blackberry. I've had it since December, not one problem (and I have dropped it twice). The larger screen makes reading documents much easier on the eyes. Don't understand your problem with it.

extremecyst

I use a magnetic holster and have no issues with fitting the phone to the pod. Anyway, I've got four of these Sync Pods! Two for my and my wife's nightstands, one at the office and another one is for my home PC. $17 is not a whole lot of money for this pod and micro-USB is like $2.99 at Newegg. Great product!

moe-blackberry

I've had mine since 3 days after the Storm launch and love it. I am on call 24 hours a day and I leave my Storm in the poa on my nightstand.

bduschel

My store has done very well with this craddle. Form and Functions. It works very for me as well. I bring it with me and sits on my desk and tethered to my laptop. At night its my alarm clock.

You already have the cables needed. But it would have been nice to have extras. But I think thats the only drawback I can find.

9/10 for me.

StormNewbie123

Thank you for writing the review. I have a quick question, hopefully, you tested this:

I recall reading somewhere that when the storm is attached to the pod, the cellphone doesn't ring.

Can you please validate this ?

Thank you
StormNewbie

sweeney83

That is incorrect. The Storm rings when it's on the pod as long as your profile is set to ring.

moneymatt2

I love this cradle and it's GREAT for mounting in your car.

It's a no brainer when using your GPS system.

dfoi

A very clear and concise description of the Sync pod. I have to agree, some type of indicator for recharge status would have been nice. The white strip panel serves no purpose whatsoever IMO.
I would rather shop around for a usb cord/sync cable. It would only add additional dollars that you can use and find some great prices on a cable elsewhere.

saab93

some other comments talk about how some cases will fit, although tight at first but will loosen up. i was wondering if my seidio innocase II will fit. i love the case but it is a pain in the @$$ to remove and i also use my storm as an alarm clock. it would be a no-brainer if the case will fit but could use some reassurance.

Jimminy123

I hope they come up with solutions to the cons because it doesn't help much if you have no idea if or when the charging or syncing is already done.