Upgrading the Blackberry 9700 to OS6

R. Preston McAfee, March 31, 2011

Summary: Much easier than expected, worth doing, especially given the low cost.

I have an AT&T BB9700 Bold, with corporate exchange and was running OS5. It crashed spectacularly a couple of weeks ago -- I upgraded BB Messenger and it crashed during the reset, which took out the entire OS. The irony here is that I didn't even use BB Messenger, just upgraded because an upgrade was available. IT support reinstalled the OS, but it didn't go well, so that I didn't have notes or tasks, and got odd faults during calls. I managed to add notes and tasks back in but still got faults that would crash the phone. So I figured the cost of trying to upgrade was low since it seemed the OS had to be reinstalled anyway.

After reading about OS 6 and trying unsuccessfully to download it from a couple of sites, I realized I could just go get the Telus OS 6 from Blackberry itself, here. No worries about spam or malware.

    The procedure for PCs is quite simple.
  • First, upgrade the desktop manager to version 6. You can get desktop manager from the same place as the OS above. It isn't carrier specific. Sync the BB and backup.
  • Disconnect the BB, turn off Desktop manager, and run the upgrade you downloaded on your PC.
  • Once the upgraded OS is installed on your PC, navigate to C:\Program Files\Common Files\Research In Motion\AppLoader and delete the vendor.xml file. Run loader.exe from this directory and connect your BB, follow instructions to install.
  • Connect the BB, fire up Desktop manager. It alerted me to the upgrade and installed the upgraded software. The default program settings were fine.
  • Then I used the desktop manager's restore function to fill in my settings and third party apps.

The amazing thing at this juncture is that the BB then reinstalled the exchange connection correctly. Normally this requires me to request an activation code from IT, but this time it just worked. Everything synced the first time and I was receiving email within an hour of starting the update. Most or all of my other settings -- ringtones to identify people, ringing behavior, fonts, etc. -- were preserved as well.

Only one program didn't work, my RSS reader, Viigo. I like Viigo -- besides my RSS feeds, it offers weather and stocks. It just doesn't work under OS 6, and the main failure is that feeds fail to load.

I am using Upvise as an alternate RSS reader. Using Yahoo weather feeds I've created weather feeds for Upvise but these can only be created on the PC, not on the device itself, which is a nuisance, although once created on a PC, they appear on the BB and update normally. Nasdaq has a Stock quote feed. I'm also testing Blackberry's Beta news feed, which you can get by registering at BBOTA and downloading this.

UPDATE: I was using WeatherTrax, but I think this program is spyware. I changed my defaults so that programs could not access my personal data, and weathertrax continually asks for permission. It will run without that permission but it keeps asking. So I installed BeWeather Free, which I like better and runs without personal data.

The other third party programs I use frequently are Google maps, instapaper, and flixster. I occasionally use GPS logger, bolt and I'm testing BB Travel, still undecided about it. All of these worked fine. The browser is definitely better, and I like the calendar's agenda style better too. Mail also seems easier to read. Battery life may be better but I generally made it through each day without recharging during the day unless I spent 6 hours on the phone, in which case I'd have to recharge by 5PM.

Of course, this is the first time a Blackberry OS install went well for me, so perhaps it was just a freak accident.

I like the OS a lot better. The browser is amazing. I used to keep opera and bolt on the BB to have available, but the BB OS6 browser is the best of the three, where it used to be the worst.

Battery life initially seemed horrible, but it seems this was just the need to recalibrate, that is, after two full days it shows the percentage falling more slowly that it did initially because it is learning. It doesn't seem better; like before with OS5, I finish the day with a decent cushion but could never make two days. In a typical day I have 3-4 hours of calls, using a bluetooth set, no wifi, and a substantial amount of data use, though primarily text via email and RSS.

I like having the home screen, favorites and media and being able to slide across to them, but hate the download and frequent screens. The frequent screen, which looks similar to the home screen, is especially annoying because the apps aren't where I expect them. I also like having two rows of apps and have arranged it so that between home, favorites and media, I can see all my apps used in a normal week. I wish I could customize the number and types of these screens, though. Or, for that matter, have three rows of apps by default. And what happened to Today screens, which I liked? It is there, hidden, by clicking above.

Worth doing.