Post-BIS BlackBerry Z10 offers superior e-mail functionality

After almost a month of use, Paul Mah is of the opinion the BlackBerry Z10--even without BlackBerry Internet Services--offers great push mail capabilities and is a step ahead of rival mobile platforms.
Written by Paul Mah, Contributor on

The pace and complexity of technological changes can sometimes make new developments daunting to understand. This is especially the case for those without formal IT training, or in situations where a commenter does not have the opportunity to use a particular technology.

A report titled "No push e-mail, no thanks to new BlackBerry" published a few weeks ago on Singapore broadsheet, The Straits Times, underscored the point. Based on interviews with a couple of users on older BlackBerry devices and an unnamed market watcher, the report sought to cast the new BlackBerry Z10 smartphone as an inferior platform for push e-mail.

Let me explain why the opposite is true.

Z10 is capable of push e-mail

The entire issue originates from the BlackBerry Z10's extensive onboard support for a wide array of e-mail protocols. This ranges from POP and IMAP, as well as popular Web-based e-mail services such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail. In addition, the BlackBerry 10 operating system (OS) that powers the Z10 also supports the Exchange ActiveSync (EAS). EAS was created by Microsoft and has evolved to become a de facto standard that is heavily used by large organizations and small businesses alike.

Previously, users have to subscribe to either BIS (BlackBerry Internet Services) or BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Services) before they can tap into the push mail capabilities of BlackBerry smartphones. The former was designed for end-users or small businesses, while the latter came with features that enterprises and government agencies will need. The downside of BIS and BES is an often hefty monthly fee payable to mobile operators; the latter also necessitates an in-house server and separate licensing fee for the backend software.

In the new paradigm, BES continues to be available for large businesses as usual. Smaller firms and end-users can simply rely on the Z10's direct e-mail support without having to subscribe to a BIS data plan. Moreover, businesses that want to separate between business (BES) and personal data can do so with the use of BlackBerry Balance.

Living without BIS

One concern expressed by veteran BlackBerry users is the apparent loss of BIS capability on BlackBerry 10 OS. Though this fuss may seem bizarre to non-BlackBerry users, the advantages offered by BIS are real. BlackBerry users are accustomed to how BIS makes it possible to receive e-mails and BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) messages even in areas with very poor or intermittent mobile reception.

Charles Dufourcq, country director for Singapore at BlackBerry, previously said during the launch in February that since BlackBerry 10 OS is architected just like other mobile players, consumers here will not need to subscribe to BIS when getting the Z10 device. 

On a practical note, how does the loss of BIS reflect on the Z10's performance? As a user of various iPhone and BlackBerry smartphone models for the last three years, I made a switch to the BlackBerry Z10 three weeks ago. My experience showed the push mail experience with EAS isn't worse compared to that of BIS.

I did notice the occasional influx of WhatsApp messages coming in at the same time, but that's par for course since it happens on the iPhone too. Furthermore, frequent travelers currently on an unlimited BackBerry data plan but who are not hooked up to BES will feel the pinch now that BBM messages and e-mails are charged at the usual exorbitant rates set by operators.

On the plus side, I gained full push e-mail capabilities on two separate Exchange mail accounts – something not possible on previous generations of BlackBerry devices on BIS. The BlackBerry 10 OS does not place any limit on the number of Exchange accounts that are added.

In conclusion, BlackBerry has now joined the ranks of modern smartphone platforms such as the iOS, Android and Windows Phone with the Z10's comprehensive on-board support for e-mail. Indeed, its continued ability to work with BES gives the Z10 the same security and manageability which has made it so popular with businesses, effectively putting it one step ahead of other mobile platforms.

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