Changes and new features are added to the system software by RIM at a pretty decent clip. RIM is constantly looking to fix bugs in the handheld code no matter how infrequently they crop up. Once RIM produces a new version of the handheld code, it does take a while to filter down to new handhelds, so you may find that your handheld software on your device is already a revision or two behind even shortly after you buy it.
The good news is that you can find and install the latest handheld code free of charge. Because the wireless carriers' infrastructures vary, there are versions of the handheld software per carrier. So if you use a device from Cingular, you need to monitor the Cingular download area of BlackBerry's web site for code for your device.
To ensure that you don't install software from the wrong carrier, RIM doesn't provide links to the various handheld software download areas from its site. You have to visit your carrier's site to find the link to the downloads. The wireless carrier's web sites are definitely a moving target, so to provide links here would be futile. Most of the carriers provide fairly prominent placement for the links to download the latest firmware. This can usually be found in the BlackBerry section. If you have any trouble finding the page, dial 611 (or your carrier's tech support number) from your BlackBerry and ask.
How do you know you need an upgrade? On the handheld code download page, it will give two version numbers that you can compare to your device to see if you are behind. Look for the Software Platform version number and the Applications version number on the download page for your handheld (see Figure 1-58).
On your device, go to the Options program to find the versions of the code on your handheld. To view the software platform, click on About to view the version number, as shown in Figure 1-59. The platform version on the About screen is the version number you need to compare with what's available on the web site. If the version on your handheld is less than the version on the web site, your handheld is a candidate for an upgrade.
Since I'm using the BlackBerry Simulator, the version shown in Figure 1-59 is more recent than what's currently available on the Cingular downloads area. Normally this version would be less than or equal to what you see on the web site.
Once you have decided to upgrade your device, download the latest firmware for your model number. It will be a large download—probably around 20 MB. The handheld code is an executable that installs as a Windows application. Run through the setup just as you would for any installation on Windows.
After you install the newer handheld code on your machine, bring up Desktop Manager. The new handheld code will be detected by Desktop Manager and you'll be immediately prompted that newer system software exists, as shown in Figure 1-60.
Click the Update Now button to bring up the Application Loader Wizard to install the new software on your BlackBerry. Figure 1-61 shows the new versions of the handheld code in Application Loader.
You will be prompted to back up and restore all your application data associated with your BlackBerry before upgrading the system software. Although this step is optional, it is strongly encouraged because of all the customizations to your device (browser bookmarks, AutoText entries, etc.) that will be removed if you don't choose to do the backup.