Using a Sprint Blackberry Pearl 8130 without a Blackberry Data Plan

Mobile Devices No Comments

Recently, my much beloved Motorola Razr V9M die (the display went black) and my friend gave me a Blackberry Pearl 8130 as a replacement. The Pearl is just a little bit larger than my Razr, which is great because I am most concerned with the size. (The latest available phones from Sprint are much bigger than the Razr.)

blackberrypearlredI have a Sprint plan with the unlimited data pack and did not want to pay extra for a Blackberry data plan. The Blackberry specific applications that come pre-installed such as the Blackberry Browser, Mail, and Map (not sure about this name) will not work without the Blackberry data plan, a.k.a. BIS (Blackberry Internet Service). In fact, their application icons won’t even show up on the phone. However, I found that one can install and use third-party applications like Opera Mini Browser, Google Mail, and Google Maps with a normal data plan. Yippee!

Voice and SMS (aka Text Messaging) functions worked fine on my Blackberry Pearl once I activated it. Again, I did not see application icons for the Blackberry browser, mail, or map application. Even though I managed to launch the Blackberry Browser (by running an application, clicking on Menu, Selecting Switch Application, and choosing Browser), it could not connect to the Internet. Below are the steps that I took to get third party Internet browsing, maps, and mail working on the Blackberry Pearl. Though the instructions are specific to the Pearl, you can easily adapt them to other Blackberry models.

To install third-party applications onto the Blackberry, you will need to run the Blackberry Desktop Software on your computer and connect the Blackberry to the computer by USB cable. Download and install the latest Blackberry Desktop Software (the version I got was 6.0) for your Windows PC or Mac. Run the Blackberry Desktop Software and then connect the Blackberry phone by USB cable (any standard USB to mini-USB cable should work). I suggest taking the default settings and then doing a full backup of your Blackberry.

You have a choice of two browsers: Opera Mini or Bolt Mobile. Bolt is better at rendering full (non-mobile) websites, can play flash videos, and has its own download capabilities. Opera Mini is faster and made specifically for mobile websites (if you input a full website URL, Opera will try to find the mobile version by default).

I installed and tried the Bolt Mobile browser; but strangely, found that it didn’t render Google’s mobile website properly (clicking on the links in the page did not work) and the download function did not work at all (download would be the main reason why I would use Bolt). The Opera Mini browser rendered Google’s mobile website without any issues. Because speed is very important to me and videos aren’t (I only read news on the browser), I decided to use the Opera Mini browser, which co-incidentally was much easier to install.

Install the Opera Mini browser:

  1. On your computer, browse to the Opera Mini’s download page.
  2. On the top right, under “Install through your PC”, select the “Download wizard”.
  3. Select Blackberry and then your Blackberry model. The Opera Mini 4.2 was recommended for my Blackberry Pearl 8130, even though there is an Opera Mini 5.1 version available. I went with the recommended 4.2 version (opera-mini-4.2.22714-advanced-en-us-fw4.0.zip).
  4. Download the version recommended as a zip archive.
  5. Uncompress the downloaded zip archive into a folder containing one .alx file and one or more .cod files. (I got two files: operette-hifi-en-us-nojsr75.alx and operette-hifi-en-us-nojsr75.cod.)
  6. If not already done, launch the Blackberry Desktop Software and connect your Blackberry phone.
  7. In the Desktop application, select Applications, wait for the list of applications to be read, and click on the “Import files” button on the top-right.
  8. Browse to the uncompressed archive folder and select the .alx file to install it.
  9. The application list will refresh and at the bottom, you will see the Opera Mobile browser listed with a green plus symbol, meaning that it needs to be sync’ed to the Blackberry phone.
  10. Click on the “Apply” button on the bottom-right and the Desktop Software will sync the Opera Mini application to the phone and then reboot the phone. This might take a couple of minutes.
  11. Once your Blackberry phone has rebooted, you will see the Opera Mini application icon listed. The first time you run the Opera Mini browser (and every time it starts up from scratch), you will be prompted once or twice to approve a security-related action: “The application Opera Mini 4 has attempted to access a low-level network connection. Would you like to allow this?” Answer Yes.

Before continuing, OTA means over-the-air. Usually one would install applications on the Blackberry by using the Blackberry browser to download a .jad bundle (mobile Java package) directly to the phone for installation. Most websites refer to this process as OTA installation. Of course, in this scenario, using the Blackberry Browser to download applications would fail.

As you can see above, installing an application onto the Blackberry is easy if you can find the application’s non-OTA package (.alx and .cod files). Some websites like Opera’s will provide links for you to download applications in non-OTA package. A simple tip is to find versions of websites for enterprise or business which will usually let you download the application. Thankfully, Google has such an enterprise website for mobile Blackberry devices.

Install Google Maps:

  1. Browse to the Google Mobile Products for Enterprise website.
  2. Locate “Google Maps” near the bottom and look to the right. There is a “Free Download” box with a link to the right of “ALX file” (example: BES 4.1.5 MR1 and up). Click to download the ALX archive (GoogleMaps.zip).
  3. Unzip the downloaded archive.
  4. Repeat the Blackberry Desktop Software instructions above to install Google Maps onto your Blackberry phone.
  5. When you run Google Maps on your Blackberry, it will prompt you to approve some permissions. Just follow the instructions, take the defaults, and be sure to Save (click on the Menu button and select Save).
  6. Google maps will appear and your location (according to the built-in GPS) should be shown on the map by default.

Unfortunately, Google does not provide a non-OTA ALX package for the mobile GMail application. Instead only OTA installations are supported and the Google website will auto-detect your phone make and model to decide which .jad file to download. I could not get the .jad installation to work at all. Here’s what I tried to do with complete failure:

  • I used the Opera Mini browser to browse to the Google Mobile Website. After clicking on “Gmail”, Google detected the Blackberry Pearl and displayed an “Install Now” link (for version 2.0.6). When I clicked on the “Install Now”, the Blackberry Browser was launched and of course, it failed to do the download.
  • Next, I tried the Bolt Mobile browser. Unfortunately, the Bolt website did not provide an ALX download. I googled for “Bolt Mobile .alx” and found a link to download Bolt Browser v2.31 blackberry.zip. After installing Bolt, I ran it, went into Preferences, force a Mobile view (otherwise, Bolt would default to Desktop View which would render the full website), and browsed to the Google Mobile Website. Clicking on the “Gmail” link didn’t do anything. I ran Opera Mini, copy the download link, ran Bolt, inputted the download link, got a download settings prompt, and then nothing. I tried it again, did not see the download settings prompt, and nothing. Download didn’t work at all.
  • I then googled for the GMail “mail.jad” and downloaded it from one of the several non-Google sites that conveniently offered it for download. I then copied the “mail.jad” file to the media card; you can do this by inserting the media card into the computer’s media reader or by enabling “Mass Storage Mode” (under Blackberry Options and Media Card) so that the Blackberry behaves like a media reader for your computer. Copy the “mail.jad” file to the “\Blackberry” folder or any of its subfolder (you can create new subfolders too). Then on the Blackberry, launch the Media application. click on the Menu button, select Explore, find the “mail.jad” file and select the “Download” button. Theoretically, this will install the application onto your Blackberry phone. Unfortunately, I got an error. Basically, the .jad contains info on where to download the .cod files which again fails because the Blackbery Browser is used to do the download. At this point, I gave up on trying to install a .jad file directly.
    • Note: At one phone point, the Blackberry stopped recognizing when the media card was inserted and the Media application didn’t list the “Media Card”. To fix this, I had to turn off the Blackberry, remove the battery, re-install the battery, and then turn the phone back on again. Supposedly, whenever something weird gets broken on your Blackberry, the answer is to pop the battery.

Fortunately, I found a great blog with instructions on how to convert a .jad file into .alx/.cod files. I will provide my versions of the instructions below for GMail. These instructions are applicable to other Blackberry applications.

Install Google Mail (aka GMail):

  1. Run Firefox (you must use Firefox for these instructions) and browse to install the Switch User Agent Firefox Extension. Follow the instructions to install the extension; Firefox will need to be restarted.
  2. Under Firefox, go to menu “Tools->Default User Agent” and select “Edit User Agents…”.
  3. Click on the “New” button near the bottom-left and select “New User Agent”.
  4. Input a Description (anything you want) and “User Agent”. The User-Agent information is sent by the browser to websites and is used by websites to determine whether a mobile version of its page should be returned. You can look up the User-Agent for your phone from this nice Mobile Browser ID (User-Agent) Strings website. These are the inputs I used for my Blackberry Pearl 8130:
    Description: BlackBerry 8130 User Agent
    User Agent: BlackBerry8130/4.5.0.89 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/106
  5. Hit Ok and Ok to save the new User Agent.
  6. Go to Firefox menu “Tools->Default User Agent” and select your newly-created Blackberry agent to switch to that agent. From then on, Firefox will send that User-Agent information to websites.
  7. Browse to the Google Mobile Website, click on the Gmail link, and then click on the “Install Now” to download the “mail.jad” file.
  8. Open the “mail.jad” file using WordPad or Write on Windows. (If you use Notepad, all the lines will run together and it will be hard to read.)
  9. Search for all the lines containing “RIM-COD-URL”. There are six and they look like the below.
    RIM-COD-URL-0: http://m.google.com/mail/download/binaries/L1/2.0.6/BlackBerry-43/GoogleMail.cod?dc=gorganic&session=1364106882&ver=2.0.6
    RIM-COD-URL-1: http://m.google.com/mail/download/binaries/L1/2.0.6/BlackBerry-43/GoogleMail-1.cod?dc=gorganic&session=1364106882&ver=2.0.6
    RIM-COD-URL-2: http://m.google.com/mail/download/binaries/L1/2.0.6/BlackBerry-43/GoogleMail-2.cod?dc=gorganic&session=1364106882&ver=2.0.6
    RIM-COD-URL-3: http://m.google.com/mail/download/binaries/L1/2.0.6/BlackBerry-43/GoogleMail-3.cod?dc=gorganic&session=1364106882&ver=2.0.6
    RIM-COD-URL-4: http://m.google.com/mail/download/binaries/L1/2.0.6/BlackBerry-43/GoogleMail-4.cod?dc=gorganic&session=1364106882&ver=2.0.6
    RIM-COD-URL-5: http://m.google.com/mail/download/binaries/L1/2.0.6/BlackBerry-43/GoogleMail-5.cod?dc=gorganic&session=1364106882&ver=2.0.6
  10. Browse to each of the URLs above and download the six “GoogleMail.cod” files.
  11. In the same folder where you have the .cod files, create a new text file named “GoogleMail.alx”. There was some text saying you need an editor that writes CR/LF line returns (which is Windows standard), but I think the latest version of Blackberry Desktop Software won’t care. In either case, just use Notepad to create the file and you should be okay. The GoogleMail.alx file will contain the following info:
    <loader version="1.0">
    <application id="Gmail:Google">
    <name>Gmail</name>
    <description></description>
    <version>2.0.6</version>
    <vendor>Google</vendor>
    <copyright></copyright>
    <fileset Java="1.0">
    <files>
    GoogleMail-5.cod
    GoogleMail-4.cod
    GoogleMail-3.cod
    GoogleMail-2.cod
    GoogleMail-1.cod
    GoogleMail.cod
    </files>
    </fileset>
    </application>
    </loader>

    You can see that the .alx file basically refers to the .cod files.

  12. Install the GoogleMail.alx using Blackberry Desktop Software.
  13. After your Blackberry restarts, the screen will prompt you to configure GMail. Just follow the defaults for permissions and make sure to Save. You will then be prompted for your Gmail username and password.

And that is it for me. I haven’t looked into getting Sprint Movies or Youtube working on my Blackberry Pearl; that’s for another time. With the information above, you should be able to install any application using the Blackberry Desktop Software. Good luck and have fun!

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