The Crackberrys are coming to Real Estate by a Storm!

Supra Blackberry phonesI’ve been a fan of the Blackberry for years. I LOVE their “push” email technology, and it’s one-hand scroll-wheel functionality. But I had to drop-kick my crackberry for a Palm Treo when Supra came out with the eKey technology in order to access homes for sale with lockboxes. I actually kept both for a while but after I got an iPhone three phones was just too much, even for a geek like me.

Supra only supports a handful of smartphones and most of them are Palm Treos, either Palm OS or Windows Mobile. The reason for this is not because they are lazy or unresponsive to customer requests, even if they are. The real reason is that most devices do not support IRDA technology. That’s the infrared port that communicates with the Supra iBox to unlock or program it. So Blackberrys, iPhones, and a bunch of other popular and cool smartphones were effectively blocked from being used as an eKey. Until now….

Blackberry eKEY-infrared convertorSupra has decided to sell an “infrared-to-bluetooth converter” and offer their Supra eKey services from several Blackberry devices by the end of the year. It’s like a car key fob that you carry on your keychain. According to their press release, Supra will support the Pearl, the Curve, and the 8800 series devices. There will be a couple of different plans offered. The new eData Mobile application will give the listing agent instant notification of showings, even while they are in progress. I’m not sure how this will play out. I’m not excited about getting calls from agents for feedback while I’m still in the house and showing my client. We may end up needing some NWMLS guidelines to keep Realtors from being too aggressive with other agents. (not that there are any pushy agents out there).

So the real question is … (drum roll please) Will Supra support the new Blackberry Storm? This is the closest thing I’ve seen to a true iPhone competitor coming to the market. All the other vendors have been scrambling to come up with a product that can compete with Apple’s evolutionary and wildly popular device. So far, none of them have really even come close, IMO. They may have some of the look and feel down, but the vastly superior software options still puts the iPhone WAY ahead of anyone else. But the one thing almost all iPhone owners agree on is that typing sucks on the iPhone. I can thumb a text message 10 times faster on a Blackberry.

Well, Blackberry may have found a way to solve this dilemma. The new Storm offers an on-screen touch-and-feel keyboard that you have to actually PUSH in a way that gives you a true “keyboard feel”. People tell me you quickly and intuitively learn how this works and your back to speed-thumb-typing in no time.The Engadget Mobile website has a page-by-page copy of the Verizon Sales brochure of the Storm if you want to look it over. I spoke with someone at GE Supra and they would not commit to saying the Supra eKey product would be compatible with the Storm. It uses Verizon’s GSM and Ev-DO networks and not Wi-Fi, which could be a deal killer for some people too.

Blackberry Storm keyboard

At least agents will have a viable alternative to the old and limited Treo. Finally, Change you can believe in! Sounds like the Blackberry’s running for office!

34 thoughts on “The Crackberrys are coming to Real Estate by a Storm!

  1. I saw the announcement of this coming on the Supra site a few months ago, but it didn’t give the details you just gave, such as the key fob portion. I was wondering what the hardware portion would be like. At the time I thought it was good to have some more options, because I’m wasn’t really happy with the smartphone options. Since then my wife has switched to the Centro, and I must admit it’s better than I thought it would be. But options more are good!

    It will be interesting to see the response to this of other agents. When I did a piece about GPS units (the Dash in particular), it seemed like most everyone responding was still using maps and directions. Having your eKey part of your phone is a good thing.

  2. Thanks for all the detail on this… I have been so frustrated with the Treo and since I was due for an upgrade at Verizon, I was about to go and get the Centro. I have heard good things about the Centro form other realtors but the OS is the same as the Treo, so that has kept me away.
    Anyway… I will continue deal with the Treo problems and wait for the Blackberry. Yea!

  3. I am using the Blackberry fob as part of a Supra trial here in Portland. Some feedback: In general, it works pretty well and for me, not having to keep my short-battery life ActiveKey charged up is a huge plus (I gave up on Palm about 8 months ago).

    The downside: You still have to carry another device in addition to your phone up to the door. So if you only have one hand free, you open the Supra software on the BBerry, punch in your 4-digit PIN, then tuck the phone away and fish out the fob, which pairs up with the phone and turns on the IR.

    The fob itself is too big (1x1x3/4 in.) to hang on your keychain, partially due to the fact it takes a AA battery (at least it’s something off the shelf and not proprietary or hard to find). There’s no way to recharge the unit, so it behooves an agent to keep an extra battery in the car.

  4. Great to hear from someone who is actually using one, Ron! Can you tell us if you can punch in your 4 digit code and activate the fob in your car in advance, without being in range of the iBox first?

    I’m thinking of those rainy Seattle and Portland days where the minimum time standing outside opening the iBox is really helpful.

    I know there is is “timeout” time limit on the current eKey software of about 30 seconds, if I remember right. This might get in the way too.

  5. Albuquerque Real Estate Guy,

    I’m hoping that our MLS will support various phone service vendors with the Pearl and Curve. But IF the Storm is supported it I think it will only be available at Verizon, at least at first.

    Verizon just updated their Blackberry Storm teaser site yesterday at: I was at a Verizon Store a couple of days ago and they said the rollout in Seattle would be on Nov 9th. But everything I see online says Nov 15th. Anyway, real soon now.

  6. I’m planning on getting a Storm…I’ve had a Treo 700WX and I HATE it. I’ve had palms for years and probably should not have switched to one that is Windows based. I’ve been so close to getting an iPhone but our family is Verizon. I’m really hoping to be in love with my phone again.

  7. Jim,

    We will be supporting the Storm with our eKEY software. Because it does have a different user interface from other BlackBerry devices, it may take a few weeks (worst case by the end of December) to get it through our certification process. We will be sending out an announcement once it has been officially certified.



    GE Security

  8. I’m so happy with my brand new Blackberry Storm! 🙂 The click-screen is the best. I tried using the iPhone at apple when I was sick of my Treo…this seems more accurate for my clutzy fingers. Yeah!!! (Okay…I’m posting rates next).

  9. Jim – did you ever get the Blackberry Storm? And? … would you recommend it to us as agents for use w/Supra? BTW – met you at REBar Camp yesterday and enjoyed your helpful input.

  10. Di, I have a Blackberry Storm and I love it. I did check out the iPhones and the screen was a little difficult for me to type on…I like the BB “click” screen… my other reason for going BB instead of iPhone was that I wanted to stay with Verizon.

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