Installing BlackBerry Simulator for Mobile Web Testing

In order to accurately test mobile websites on a variety of devices, you either need to buy a bunch of phones (if you’re a big developer and can afford it), or go the cheap route and rely on device simulators from the manufacturers. In order to better understand how looks and behaves, I’m going to install all the major simulators I can find and document the steps along the way.

To get rolling with the testing of BlackBerry devices, we’ll start at the BlackBerry Developer Program and find the page for BlackBerry Developer Tools.

There are two different software packages we’ll need. First is the Device Simulator:

Use BlackBerry Device Simulators to demonstrate and test how the BlackBerry® Device Software, screen, keyboard and trackwheel/trackball will work with your application. These simulators will also simulate behavior in various wireless network conditions.

Second is the MDS Services:

The BlackBerry Email and MDS Services Simulator Package can emulate certain aspects of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. When used in conjunction with a BlackBerry Device Simulator, users can simulate browsing web content, sending and receiving email or application data traffic.

The MDS Services software is needed to simulate a network connection, which we’ll need for testing mobile browsing. Without it, your simulated BlackBerry has no network access.

Next we’ll proceed to downloading the latest Device Simulator. Each phone/carrier combination you want to test is a separate download. In my case I’m testing with the 8830 on Sprint and the 8300 without a carrier. Download these .exe files and run them, installing into the default folders.

Next we’ll need to download the Email and MDS Services Simulator package. This download required me to create a free registration with the BlackBerry developer program. (While installing this package, it warned me that I needed a newer Java development kit installed, but I deselected that prerequisite and continued on without it. If you do run into problems, you might in fact need a recent JDK.)

After the packages are installed, we can fire up the simulator:

  1. Bring up an Explorer window and navigate to the “Research in Motion” folder under Program Files
  2. Go into the “Email and MDS Services” folder, then the “MDS” folder, then double-click on run.bat
  3. Go back up and into the “Device Simulators” folder, then a device folder (like “8830-Sprint”), then double-click on the device batch file (like “8830-Sprint.bat”)

Wait a minute for the simulator to start running, then start using your new phone!

Some tips and tricks:

  • Bring up the simulator help content (F1) to get familiar with the UI and keyboard controls
  • Keep the LCD on (menu View | Keep LCD On)
  • Save or copy the screen as an image (Edit menu)
  • Zoom in (View | Zoom) or go full-screen (F11) for presentations

That last tip made me realize this simulator would be great for any sort of demo, hack, or presentation. Instead of fumbling with an ELMO, you can run your demo from this simulator on your laptop.