I’d never thought I’d go and do something like this, but I “Bricked” my AT&T BlackBerry 8310 (Curve) the other day. It all started with the best of intentions, upgrading the BB device software. I’d read the other day on the Boy Genius Report, one of my favorite tech blogs (it concentrates very heavily on the wireless market), that AT&T finally released BlackBerry’s OS 4.5 upgrade for a bunch of handsets. The improvements and enhancements it offered were very tempting and I decided to take the plunge.

I downloaded the upgrade package and got my BB Curve ready to get a new lease on life. There wasn’t much documentation, but I figured the installer would guide me through the process. The installer basically puts the updates in a queue within the BlackBerry Desktop Manager application, which takes care of the communications to the device. So I started up the desktop manager app, and stepped through the OS upgrade process. One of the first things it does it perform a back up (thank heavens), then it wipes the devices and begins the process of pushing the various updated OS components to the handset.

All seemed to be going well, albeit slow (an operation like this is bound to take time). I stepped away for just a few moments, and when I came back, the process had stopped with a communications error message that said “the update could not complete, please try again.” Uh Oh. My heart sank. Trying hard not to panic, I restarted the update process via the desktop manager, but it basically timed out again.

Things went from bad to worse… I was unable to proceed with the upgrade, and yet the BB handset was brainless, wiped of it’s original OS and applications. I did a reset via battery removal, to no avail. The BB’s display just showed a folder icon with error code 507. Googling that error code came back with a couple things to try, but nothing seemed to work, the device was comatose! I got a pit in my stomach. It was quickly looking like I’d need to replace it, which was money I did not want to spend.

Fortunately, there is an AT&T store just down the street, and I called to check which BB handsets they had in store. While I was tempted to get the new BlackBerry Bold, I didn’t feel like forking over the dough. There was a rebate program on several BB handsets, and I could get a new BB 8310 for $150 after rebate (with a 2-year contract, naturally). But the sales rep at the store did something that shocked me (in a good way). He asked if I’d called the Cellular Phone Repair Store, several miles up the street in Tulsa. I told him that I didn’t think of that, so he dialed them up for me, and I spoke with a repair rep, described the problem, and he thought they could fix it for $35.

I figured I didn’t have anything to lose, if they couldn’t restore it operating condition, I would just go ahead with buying a new handset. I drove up to the store, which was wildly busy, and dropped off my dead BlackBerry. They said give them an hour. Just like clockwork, they called me back later that afternoon to say they were able to restore it to working order. I picked it up (there were, I kid you not, like 20 people in the waiting area) and sure enough, it was fully functional. Best $35 I’ve spent in a long while. I chuckled with the rep behind the counter about getting them to divulge the process they used to restore it, but I knew they wouldn’t divulge it… after all, this is their core business and giving away secrets wouldn’t be a good practice.

While my BlackBerry was fully functional, it was reset back to factory defaults. It just had the original applications on it, with none of my data, customizations or additional apps. Now call me crazy, but I had the itch to try the OS upgrade again, this time I took my sweet time doing it, and it completed successfully.

The last step was to run a restore through the desktop manager. The restore worked, at least partially. It restored most of my device settings, and PIM data, but for some reason, it didn’t restore 3rd Party applications I had installed. That wasn’t a huge deal, most of them were free downloads which I could perform right from the handset. I did lose my World Poker Tour game, which I did have to pay to replace.

The upgrade is pretty slick, the BlackBerry browser is greatly improved, there are a number of display font enhancements, the Calendar and Contacts GUIs are both improved, and now I can shoot video clips on it! So after my initial scare, my BlackBerry is back, and better than ever!