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Blackberry and Static Make a Bad Pie

Steve Fowler
Fowler Associates
April 20, 2004

As reported in the WallStreet Journal and an email from Blackberry, the devices have been crashing due to static problems associated with clothing and vehicle seats.

Blackberry has the "always on" feature which makes it susceptible to electrostatic discharges in the normal use environment.

The problem affects Blackberry models 857 and 957. The other models have not had the complaints as yet. We are not sure what was done to the later models to keep ESD at bay.

Some users report crashes when they pull the devices out of their pockets…"POP!"

Manufacturers of the Blackberry devices, Canada's Research In Motion Ltd., says
the problem is limited in scope. "Research In Motion has investigated this issue extensively," the company's technical-support group said in an e-mail message. "Due to an uncommon combination of clothing materials and dry winter environmental conditions, an electrostatic discharge may occur, which can cause the handheld to go into storage mode," meaning it shuts down, according to the e-mail.

Materials such as wool and polyester produce more static than cotton or poly-blends, and a leather holster for the device seems to cut down on the problem, according to their tech support.

This is reminiscent of the Palm problems of a few years ago. It may be the future for handheld devices such as flash sticks unless the companies fully understand the techniques of mitigating ESD in the "Use" environment.




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