Wednesday, August 27, 2014

BlackBerry 10.2 PIN Contact Sync Has Changed

BlackBerry 10.2 Changes BB PIN Contact Mapping

By Vern Weitzman

BlackBerry 10 PIN to Outlook Contact field now in IM Address Field
For 15 years, a BlackBerry PIN was synced to UserField1 an Outlook Contact.
This has mysteriously changed on OS 10.2

The RIM 950 was the first BlackBerry handheld I owned. It ran for days on an “AA” battery. There was no SMS Text messaging but every BlackBerry had PIN to PIN messaging.  PIN messages didn’t have the size limitation that SMS had and typically had a delivery confirmation in under a second.

Because the peer to peer communications bypassed the Data Center all together, it had obvious potential as a useful tool for emergency communications.

What went wrong with BlackBerry PIN Sync?

A few months ago, a customer reported that certain users were not getting updated PIN information for their co-workers.  Normally when they open an entry in their address book on a BlackBerry 10 device, they would always see the option to compose a PIN message to that co-worker.

This is made possible because the BlackBerry PIN is one of the fields that the itrezzo Unified Contact Manager automatically syncs from the BESmgmt database to Outlook contacts.

We tried all of the usual troubleshooting techniques. The PIN's were in Outlook contacts but wouldn't sync to certain BB10 handhelds. Suspecting that the BlackBerry PIN sync was not working, we did some diagnostic tests. We discovered that a change on the BlackBerry handheld software has left a lot of handheld users in the dark.

BlackBerry PIN has morphed into BBM PIN

One of the crown jewels of BlackBerry is the BB Messenger.  Even with the reduction in overall BlackBerry smartphone population, the BBM diversification to Android and iPhone has put the BlackBerry PIN back in vogue.  

You can even get a BBM PIN for an iPhone!  While it is great to see that BBM is a successful Instant Messaging platform, I think the relentless drive to improve it has derailed some loyal BlackBerry customers.

Some BlackBerry history - circa 1999
The desktop intellisync software mapped Outlook UserField1 to the BB PIN on the handheld.  When BES 4.0 was released in November of 2003 with wireless contact synchronization, that software also mapped UserField1 into the BlackBerry address book entry as the PIN.  Even the BlackBerry 10 with ActiveSync did this exact mapping.

This meant that if you entered a PIN for someone in your address book, that PIN would be synced to UserField1 in the respective Outlook Contact.  If you updated the UserField1 attribute of an Outlook contact, that PIN would quickly sync down to the BlackBerry address book. There was 15 years of consistency in the way the BlackBerry PIN was mapped back to an Outlook Contact.

For a real life problem, lets say you have a BlackBerry 9630 with the PINs configured for several of your coworkers and friends. When you upgrade to a new Z30, those PINs become unavailable. This assumes you activate the Z30 on the same Exchange Server mailbox.

When I say PIN’s unavailable, I mean that the PINs are still stored in your Outlook contacts - you just can’t use them from your awesome new Z30.

Does Outlook UserField1 still sync to BlackBerry PIN?

With this particular customer that had PINs stored in Outlook Contact UserField1, the PIN’s were missing from the BlackBerry. We also saw that in some instances, the PIN appeared in the “Other Phone” field!  

It turned out this wasn’t even a two way sync. When we placed a PIN in the other phone field (on the BlackBerry), it mapped back to a phone number in the Outlook Contact. This weird behavior appeared in earlier releases of OS 10.2.

BlackBerry PIN Sync Mystery

As mentioned in the statement above, the PIN improperly synced on an early release of the BlackBerry 10.2 OS.  However, we found a slightly newer release (BB OS and typed a PIN into a new contact of the BlackBerry address book.  After hunting for it in the respective Outlook Contact, the PIN appeared in the IM Address field.

BlackBerry PIN to Exchange Server Outlook Contact as IMAddress

The business requirement is to be able  to centrally manage BlackBerry PIN for Outlook contacts. When doing this from the Exchange Server, thousands of users will automatically have accurate PIN information. We tried the next logical step.  We edited another Outlook contact to put someone’s PIN in the IM address.  We had completely disappointing and still confusing results at the BlackBerry:

  • The IM address showed the PIN value
  • There was no way to “Compose PIN” to that user

Fast forward now to BlackBerry OS and another piece of the puzzle reveals itself. When you set a PIN on the device, this is what you see in Outlook.

Sync BlackBerry PIN to Outlook Contact now in IM Address field

BlackBerry support claims this is the solution. Although, all of your BB 10.2 users must be at OS 10.2.3175 or higher.  Some of most popular OS variations we have worked with:

  • Verizon BlackBerry Z30  (works)
  • Verizon BlackBerry Z10 (works)
  • ATT BlackBerry Z30 (works)
  • ATT BlackBerry Z10  (fails, firmware upgrade unavailable as of Aug-22 )

Here is a summary of what you can sync, and where you need to sync to.

BlackBerry Version
Sync’s with Outlook UserField1
Sync’s with Outlook IMaddress Field
OS 2.0 through 7.0
Both Ways
To Outlook
Both Ways

After you read this blog post and discover additional test cases of specific BB 10.2 OS that properly sync, please send us the OS version using the comments below.

Working with a mixed BlackBerry Population

The specific customer that pointed out PIN sync issues has thousands of BlackBerry 10 devices and thousands of legacy devices on BES 5. Since itrezzo is centrally managing contacts for all of these users, the initial thought was that we needed to perform conditional updates based on the specific OS version that the user had.  

However, some users have a legacy BB device as well as a Tablet or BB 10 device.  If they have both, we need to update both the IMaddress field AND UserField1.

That is what version 5.3 of the Unified Contact Manager does.


As far as we know, BlackBerry customers were not made aware of this change. Even one customer with 10,000 BlackBerry handhelds was in the dark. I wrote this post because there will possibly be other BlackBerry shops in need of this same answer. If you are one of those professionals researching BlackBerry 10 PIN Sync, please leave me your thoughts about this information.

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