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BlackBerry Trackballs Get Big Thumbs Down

Seems like I'm not the only person having problems with the BlackBerry trackball. According to my readers, the problem has been around for a while -- and there are even some third-party fixes available if you know where to look.

Reader JG has had with the same problem:

"Let me say first: I love my BlackBerry. But I am now on my third 8830 model in six months. The trackball has given out twice. Verizon (VZ)has taken care of the situation every time, for free. I do not think the trackball is hardy enough to take the everyday beating of the 'business road warrior.' The one thing I have learned is to circumvent the trackball by the use of key strokes. It takes a little research, but it helps."
JT explains that you can fix the problem yourself:
"You can pop out the trackball very easily. Take a nail clipper or something else flat and pop out the ring around the ball. If you have dirt in there, blow it out and reassemble. It's easy. Good luck."

Broken BlackBerry Blues
PB explains what he does when trackball-maintenance isn't enough:
"Eventually my trackball failed completely. I found a Web site where I could order and replace the trackball assembly and that chrome ring for about $12. It's a lot more convenient and cheaper than replacing or reloading your BlackBerry. My new trackball has worked just fine since I bought it six months ago."

CS told me how it's done and has a suggestion for BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM):

"The problem is the debris and sweat (sunscreen is awful for it, too) that gets trapped under the trackball in the reading mechanism. A new trackball -- $6 bucks online -- is the answer, and is extremely easy to install. The phone companies should know this and just swap out the trackballs for free, a process that takes literally 1 minute. I installed mine myself. Excessive use is bound to make the trackball mess up. Maybe the solution is for Research In Motion to make it slightly more elementary to replace and include an extra trackball or two with every phone."

RR says the problem is oil and grime:

"Try this: Buy a bottle of 95%-98% denatured alcohol at a drug store. Put some on a small soft cloth or cotton ball and wash the trackball. Turn it in all directions. You can't hurt the trackball mechanism because the alcohol will evaporate. Remember: 95-98% -- no less."
And, BC agreed with me despite switching sides:
"Having recently replaced my BlackBerry with an iPhone, and just this afternoon gone to the Apple (AAPL) store to get the iPhone examined (it's been crashing mysteriously), I found your piece spot on, and well-written, as usual. Bravo!"
On a separate but related subject, once your BlackBerry is working perfectly, you must check out our great new app. (Yes, this is a shameless plug!) Now, with " for BlackBerry," you can follow market data, create and edit your custom stock list, choose which news sections you want to read and a lot more.

Learn more about our new free service or download the program directly onto your BlackBerry by wirelessly surfing to

Gary Krakow is's senior technology correspondent.

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