Simulating a BlackBerry Device

Device simulators help developers by letting them get as close as possible to running their applications on the real thing. Fortunately, there are some very good BlackBerry simulators available, which can save developers a great deal of time when creating applications.

It could be said that historically BlackBerry has always been a messaging platform. The first versions of RIM smartphone devices were little more than glorified pagers. Today, of course, BlackBerry smartphones are a one-stop-shop for productivity, acting as an integrated telephone, text, e-mail, and rich application environment. Some of the more current BlackBerry devices even include media, games and GPS capabilities. While many of these features are fun and useful for any type of person, the BlackBerry smartphone is a tactile device that proves to be indispensable for those in the business world.

Because BlackBerry devices are so deeply rooted in the business world, developers should expect to find themselves developing apps geared toward this market quite often. These types of apps are able to complete a complex task, which means extra care should be taken to ensure they run properly.

In addition, BlackBerry applications have penetrated the consumer market as well, offering up a host of other scenarios programmers need to consider when writing their programs. In order to make sure these apps run accordingly and do what you envisioned them doing, you will need to utilize device simulators.

As a developer, it’s very important to know the ins and outs of programming for BlackBerry with the BlackBerry device simulator, which is what we’ll discuss here today. BlackBerry’s simulators enable the code, compile, and debug cycle to take place directly on the computer you used to develop the application. This will prove to be a great advantage over just testing on the device itself.

Any developer who’s been working with apps for any extended amount of time knows that good coding practices dictate that testing should take place on the device before the release of the product. That being said, using a simulator will prove to be an amazing time-saver during the application’s development phase.

Using BlackBerry’s device simulators will also prove to be a very important part of the application-support process. Surely every developer at some point or another has encountered a user that reports an app you made behaving oddly on their particular device, while another user with a different device reports no such behavior. In these particular instances, using a simulator will prove to be incredibly beneficial as it will allow you to quickly isolate the problem and then find the solution.

The best thing a developer can do is periodically test their apps on the latest device simulators as they become available. This will obviously prove to be a much cheaper alternative to purchasing every new device that becomes available.

{mospagebreak title=The Basics of BlackBerry Device Simulators}

There are many BlackBerry simulators available to mimic the functionality of actual BlackBerry products; this includes BlackBerry devices and the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. No matter which device simulator you choose, it will demonstrate and test how the BlackBerry device software, keyboard, trackwheel/trackball, and screen will work with the application you’ve created. There are even more benefits to using simulators, two of which include being able to simulate behavior in varying wireless network conditions and the fact that simulators work as excellent tools for use in presentations.

Simulators can also be integrated with the BlackBerry Java Development Environment (JDE), and when combined, the two work together to debug apps that were developed in the BlackBerry JDE. It should be pointed out that each simulator package essentially represents an in-market device model along with its handheld software version.

There is also a BlackBerry e-mail and MDS services simulator package that is capable of mimicking specific aspects of the BlackBerry Enterprise server. This simulator can be used in conjunction with a device simulator, which would enable developers to simulate sending and receiving e-mail or application data traffic, as well as browsing web content. Similar to a device simulator, this type of simulator package can assist in the application development process and testing; it is also ideal for sales presentations.

BlackBerry MDS Simulator

BlackBerry’s MDS simulator is specifically designed to simulate the BlackBerry MDS connection component of BlackBerry’s enterprise server. When you combine and use both the BlackBerry smartphone simulator along with the MDS simulator, developers can test network, push HTTP, and browser apps that are specifically designed for the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

{mospagebreak title=Smartphone Simulator}

Essentially, the BlackBerry smartphone simulator was designed to mimic a BlackBerry experience without actually having to use an actual smartphone device. The smartphone simulator is an impressive piece of technology. By installing the application on your computer, you will be granted a view of any BlackBerry device model of your choosing.

The simulator view will have the look and feel of the device, but on your desktop. You can even interact with the image as you would a real device; this includes access to the device’s already-existing apps, its trackwheel, trackball, and keyboard, and its communication features, including phone, e-mail messages, and Internet browsing.

As if all of that weren’t impressive enough, the smartphone simulator can also be used as a platform on which your apps can run. This means that they will be able to make network connections, store data, and handle e-mail messages. Aside from being able to test your own apps as well as simulate and test connectivity, the simulator also includes all of the device applications that are usually available on a typical BlackBerry.

When using the smartphone simulator to perform tests, developers may need to simulate e-mail or BlackBerry MDS connectivity, which is why the MDS simulator and e-mail simulator are available. After your app is compiled and developed, you can test it on the BlackBerry device. The first step usually involves setting the BlackBerry Java Development Environment in order to use the smartphone simulator. The simulator will then run the application code as an actual BlackBerry device. This ensures that the simulator is providing an accurate environment for testing how your app will function on a smartphone device.

After your app has been tested, you can then confidently install the app on a BlackBerry device. Keep in mind that if your app uses signed APIs, you may need to utilize code signing keys. Once your app has been installed, you can finally launch your application to test it for functionality, and most importantly, performance. If you encounter problems during this final phase, you may need to attach the device to the BlackBerry integrated development environment (IDE) and utilize the debugging tool to go through your app code step by step.

BlackBerry E-mail Simulator

Simply put, BlackBerry’s e-mail simulator is intended to send and receive messages between the smartphone simulator and a message app (such as Microsoft Outlook) or POP3 and SMTP servers. Keep in mind that a BlackBerry enterprise server is not required for this particular simulator.

Naturally, as a developer, you want your apps to run without any problems. Unfortunately, this isn’t always realistic. Utilizing BlackBerry’s device simulators can help you find problems and solutions and give you the assurance you need to develop highly successful applications.  

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