Verizon Quietly Disables BlackBerry GPS

A mapping program doesn't work, Verizon says nothing, and this customer is peeved.

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BlackBerry 8830

Getting ready to write about GPS devices, I am anxious to try the mapping function of my new BlackBerry 8830 from Verizon Wireless. I fumble for about an hour, figuring I am doing something wrong as the phone has no idea where I am. Only later do I learn that Verizon quietly, in the dark of night, without a high sign or the kindness of an alert, had turned the blessed thing off.

The "maps" program that came with my Verizon phone is crippled, a mere tease to suck away my time and patience. I can punch up a map, but it's been blinded by the yahoos at my wireless provider. And nary a word, until I get so frustrated that I have to wade through an automated answering service to get tech support on the phone. I've looked through all the documentation that came with the phone and scoured the Verizon Website, and nowhere can I find a hint why the map program doesn't work.

BlackBerry installed the same GPS chips that enable other tracking devices to work, independent of a cell signal. And that is apparently what has Verizon nervous—the company wouldn't make any money from the BlackBerry map software. Verizon will say only that the BlackBerry app hasn't passed its tests, which it claims are more strenuous than other carriers'. That's a weak attempt to diss Sprint, which is just fine with customers using the GPS functions on the BlackBerry 8830.

Verizon has a history of this behavior, having crippled the Bluetooth functions on its cellphones, too. The carrier says it will restore the GPS function later this year, probably to sell us for-pay navigation services such as its own $10-a-month version. I'm stuck with this company-issued phone and am generally happy with Verizon as a carrier. But its smarmy approach has left a bad taste. As much as I'll be tempted to use my phone for GPS, I'll resist—if it means paying Verizon.