There have been a few third-party applications that provide some combination of remotely backing up, restoring, and locating an errant BlackBerry smartphone, but no in-house service crafted by BlackBerry maker Research In Motion itself. Not until now, that is.
On Monday, RIM introduced BlackBerry Protect, a free service that provides tools to remotely locate, back up, restore, and wipe the data from your phone with a system that's extremely similar to Microsoft's freemium My Phone service--introduced for Windows phones back in October 2009.
BlackBerry Protect is based on the BlackBerry ID that RIM revealed in late June (so, we're assuming this means that BlackBerry App World 2.0 should soon show its face). The service consists of a downloadable mobile app, and desktop and Web apps to control and manage the remote commands.
As with Microsoft's My Phone service, BlackBerry Protect includes the following remote commands:
Loud ring: This turns your phone onto the loudest setting, even when you're in silent mode, for those moments you're playing hide 'n' seek with your absent BlackBerry.
Locator: This GPS-assisted feature shows the phone's current location on a map--assuming it's on.
Remote lock: If you hadn't set a password on your device, it's not too late to password-protect it from afar.
Lost and Found: The "Lost and Found" feature appends a message to the start screen, so you can appeal to the Good Samaritan you hope will find and return your phone.
Remote wipe: If all hope is lost, BlackBerry Protect can also wipe data stored on the device and on the microSD card as well.
Back up data: You can configure BlackBerry Protect to routinely sync your contacts, calendar, browser bookmarks, memos, and tasks to BlackBerry's servers. The service works over Wi-Fi or 3G.
Restore: Restock your data on a new phone. The feature is also useful for transitioning from an old BlackBerry device (that was never lost or stolen) to a new one.
Web interface: The Web interface for BlackBerry Protect has a couple more advantages over the on-phone app. Namely, the ability to monitor the status of remote management requests, and change your backup/restore and account settings.
More details: It will support up to five devices associated with one account, which is perfect for a family or small business. Also, for any remote command to work, the device needs to have some sort of data connection, either over the cellular network or over Wi-Fi. If the battery has been pulled, the service won't work. However, BlackBerry Protect will queue up commands for when connectivity returns.
BES compatibility: Though the service is billed as a solution for both consumers and corporate users, BlackBerrys connected to BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) will override BlackBerry Protect, so as to safeguard the company's data.
Availability: Starting Monday, BlackBerry Protect will be available as a limited beta. Open beta and general availability "later on this year."
Phone support: BlackBerry Protect will work on the Bold 9000, 9700, and 9650; the Storm 9500 series and Storm 2; and the Curve 8900 and 8500 series, the Tour, and other BlackBerry phones running operating system 4.6 or higher.