Alt your way to a better phone experience

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Ok, so I know my posts are very tutorial-like but these are all things I feel you, the BlackBerry® smartphone using public, should know!:)

My friend pinged me a few days ago…

Friend: I just found a huge problem with my BlackBerry smartphone
Riz: Do tell
Friend: Well, you know when you call somewhere and want to dial by name…
Riz: Yes
Friend: Or you need to call a number like 1-800- RIZ-BLOG
Friend: You can’t do it!!

What do you mean you can’t do it? You can do just about everything on a BlackBerry device!

Unfortunately, this function needs a little tutorial. When you’re dialing a number like 1-800-RIZ-BLOG let’s leave it there… you need to enter letters, but your device is in some sort of number mode. How do you get out of number mode? Press and hold ALT as you type the letters when you want letters instead of numbers. Your device will translate the letters into the appropriate number.

That’s it!

Of course, it would be nicer if this was a little more “discoverable,” but I haven’t come up with any bright ideas on how to do this. Any suggestions?

About Riz J.

Riz joined the handheld software product management team at Research In Motion (RIM) in 2008. Riz works on the overall direction of the device and spends a lot of time trying to figure out what customers want. He hopes this blog allows him to share what he loves about BlackBerry, and learn what you love about BlackBerry.

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  • Sri Bedathur

    Of course I have a suggestion!:)
    I use this feature quite often and found it to be a little tedious to press alt key for EVERY letter I need to enter! I wish I could press and hold the letter key a little longer and it would switch to letter mode automatically! The concept of keys toggling between various letters and numbers have been around long enough and therefore is more intuitive, I believe.

  • Sri Bedathur

    Of course I have a suggestion!:)
    I use this feature quite often and found it to be a little tedious to press alt key for EVERY letter I need to enter! I wish I could press and hold the letter key a little longer and it would switch to letter mode automatically! The concept of keys toggling between various letters and numbers have been around long enough and therefore is more intuitive, I believe.

  • nocturnal9

    Why not have it say in small 6pt font under the number you’re dialing, “Hold the ALT key to dial a letter”.
    Or only show the text anytime you dial a toll-free number. The moment you type “800” or “1800” or “888” or “1888”, etc, it pops up.

  • nocturnal9

    Why not have it say in small 6pt font under the number you’re dialing, “Hold the ALT key to dial a letter”.
    Or only show the text anytime you dial a toll-free number. The moment you type “800” or “1800” or “888” or “1888”, etc, it pops up.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/y9VJFvB

    how about for the storm?

  • https://me.yahoo.com/a/y9VJFvB2n_W6TVRU1hqdEHil_DQTeP6mNgz2Qy4-#8e769

    how about for the storm?

  • pikelet

    Display a hint the first time the user opens the Phone app, in the space that would otherwise been taken up by the call log? Something like ‘Enter a number using the keypad, then press the call button. To enter a phone number with letters eg 1-800-BLACKBERRY, hold the ALT key and type in the letters’. Or make it more accessible under the help for the Phone app, rather than have it buried under ‘Phone shortcuts’ – give it it’s own subheading.

  • pikelet

    Display a hint the first time the user opens the Phone app, in the space that would otherwise been taken up by the call log? Something like ‘Enter a number using the keypad, then press the call button. To enter a phone number with letters eg 1-800-BLACKBERRY, hold the ALT key and type in the letters’. Or make it more accessible under the help for the Phone app, rather than have it buried under ‘Phone shortcuts’ – give it it’s own subheading.

  • http://openid.supermathie.net/

    Perhaps have a default phone number on Blackberries that is a 1-800-SUM-NMBR (but a real number)… people may clue in that it’s possible and go from there.

  • http://openid.supermathie.net/michael

    Perhaps have a default phone number on Blackberries that is a 1-800-SUM-NMBR (but a real number)… people may clue in that it’s possible and go from there.

  • Riz

    Thanks for the comment,
    Just so you know, you can press and hold alt as you dial your number. You don’t have to press alt-t, alt-y; you can just press alt-t,y to get the same result.
    Hopefully that helps.

  • Riz

    Thanks for the comment,
    Just so you know, you can press and hold alt as you dial your number. You don’t have to press alt-t, alt-y; you can just press alt-t,y to get the same result.
    Hopefully that helps.

  • John Gianotti

    Yeah, and on the BB Storm when in the phone application you find the Alt key where???

  • John Gianotti

    Yeah, and on the BB Storm when in the phone application you find the Alt key where???

  • Jesse

    I agree with Sri Bedathur, having the Alt key toggle the letter/number if held a bit longer would be amazing. This is already done on the Strom, but would love it on the Bold.

  • Jesse

    I agree with Sri Bedathur, having the Alt key toggle the letter/number if held a bit longer would be amazing. This is already done on the Strom, but would love it on the Bold.

  • Riz

    You don’t need the alt key while dialing on a storm, there already is a 12 key virtual dialing screen with the letters shown with the numbers (like any other phone): http://blogs.blackberry.com/assets_c/2009/05/stormnum-48.html

  • Riz

    You don’t need the alt key while dialing on a storm, there already is a 12 key virtual dialing screen with the letters shown with the numbers (like any other phone): http://blogs.blackberry.com/assets_c/2009/05/stormnum-48.html

  • idl3mind

    thanks for an awesome tutorial. this is indespensible piece of advice

  • idl3mind

    thanks for an awesome tutorial. this is indespensible piece of advice

  • CBeaty

    I think blackberry needs to add a row to the top of the qwerty key pad. There’s just enough space to add 1-9 and 0, but I would also suggest defaulting a button for * and #. It gets a little touchy when dealing with automated answering services.

  • CBeaty

    I think blackberry needs to add a row to the top of the qwerty key pad. There’s just enough space to add 1-9 and 0, but I would also suggest defaulting a button for * and #. It gets a little touchy when dealing with automated answering services.

  • Caspan

    This also works for people calling businesses.
    There is nothing worse then calling a company hitting the dial by name option to be presented with “Please spell the last name of the person you are trying to call…. for the letter Q press 7 for Z press 9” you look at your Bold keyboard and are like ???? and of course the operator starts in again pressing the issue that you must type in someone’s last name. You finally geek out and just hanging up in sheer terror, the same feeling you got when you called housing agents when you were young and said you wanted to buy a house and they asked the operator to trace the call…. you never did that? Okay maybe it was just me. Anyways the same tip above holds true, hold the alt key and start to spell the name with the keyboard. It works every time and it’s a lot faster then hunting and pecking on a 9 digit keypad in alphabetical order. You would think looking for letters in alphabetical order would be faster wouldn’t you… try using a Speak & Spell with your kid and find out how hard it is:)

  • Caspan

    This also works for people calling businesses.
    There is nothing worse then calling a company hitting the dial by name option to be presented with “Please spell the last name of the person you are trying to call…. for the letter Q press 7 for Z press 9” you look at your Bold keyboard and are like ???? and of course the operator starts in again pressing the issue that you must type in someone’s last name. You finally geek out and just hanging up in sheer terror, the same feeling you got when you called housing agents when you were young and said you wanted to buy a house and they asked the operator to trace the call…. you never did that? Okay maybe it was just me. Anyways the same tip above holds true, hold the alt key and start to spell the name with the keyboard. It works every time and it’s a lot faster then hunting and pecking on a 9 digit keypad in alphabetical order. You would think looking for letters in alphabetical order would be faster wouldn’t you… try using a Speak & Spell with your kid and find out how hard it is:)

  • jvoll

    Another suggestion/solution:
    After you start dialing you can hit Alt & Shift, just like turning on the Number Lock in standard text boxes, but it actually turns on a letter lock in the dialing box.

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