Google Apps Connector for Blackberry: Best Of Both Worlds?

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Google’s cloud-based Gmail, delivered through enterprise-grade Blackberry servers, sounds like the best of both worlds, but is it?

Synchronisation of actions between the device and Google cloud happens in a timely fashion in most cases. When reading an email on the Blackberry device, the same email would be marked read on the Gmail Web interface right away. Also, I found that I could archive or “star” an email on the device by simply moving it to the corresponding folder. Google also claims that the Connector will synchronise labels from Gmail, although I could not find any evidence that this works at this time.

Users will likely find they still may need the Gmail Mobile App on their device for some functionality. For instance, the Blackberry device maintains only a few days of emails (depending on configuration). Gmail and Google Apps users may be well accustomed to being able to search quickly through gigabytes and months of collected communications. These users will need to rely on Google’s client application for that kind of activity.

Contact synchronisation occurs bi-directionally. Updates made on-device replicate immediately to the cloud and can include all contact details plus any configured contact photos attached to an entry. In addition to the users’ own contact lists, administrators can create a Global Address List for a list of contacts common to everyone in the email domain.

Calendar sync: one way only

Calendar integration with Gmail services is a little less robust, offering only one-way synchronisation from the Web calendar to the device. Therefore, while users can input calendar entries on their devices, these updates will not synchronize back to Google Calendar.

Raju Gulabani, director of product management for Google Apps, said the company’s research showed that the majority of users use the device calendar in this way, so read-only access is acceptable. To my ears, however, it sounds more like two-way calendar sync simply wasn’t ready in time for Google’s desired launch date. Indeed, Gulabani said that two-way calendar sync should be added as an enhancement down the road.

In tests, I found calendar and contact synchronisations do not get pushed to the device like email does, but instead they piggyback with push mail. According to Google representatives, the “presence of an email is an indication that the user wants to be notified of the calendar changes. If no email is present, we wait for next scheduled sync to save on battery life.”

Conclusion

Google Apps Connector for Blackberry Enterprise Server ties together Blackberry devices and management infrastructure with Google’s for-pay email services. However, in the Blackberry’s native email application, Google can’t offer all the services and features users have come to expect from Gmail.