Explanation: BB's Implementation of Time Zones
"Why doesn't my Blackberry update the time correctly when I travel across time zones?"
This question comes up once or twice a month, generally from a new user who is dumbfounded their expensive new smartphone can't do something their last three dumb phones did automatically. I'm offering this post to elaborate on the Blackberry FAQ, cited below, and to offer a real life example of how the Rim technique works. I hope it will clear up some of the confusion around this topic, and help new users get the most from their phone. Your comments are welcome. I'll be happy to correct any mistakes you find.
An ordinary cell phone without an integrated calendar doesn't have to care about appointments and so can automatically switch time zones, by simply displaying the network time. That's what new users are accustomed to. Why doesn't the Blackberry behave the same way? Because Blackberry's have integrated calendars. The calendar and the clock use the same time reference. If you change the clock, you change the time reference for appointments. Thus, Blackberry's don't change time zones automatically because that would cause appointments to be shown incorrectly, if the appointments were entered in the wrong time zone. Why would anybody enter an appointment in the wrong time zone? Because Outlook doesn't let you have more than two time zones available at any time, so people who put in appointments using Outlook and do business in more than two time zones are going to have a problem, or else have to do the time zone math when they enter appointments. And, there's the natural but incorrect tendency to think of 2:00pm as 2:00pm, wherever you are. If you input your appointments using the Blackberry calendar input screen, all the time zones are available to you. It's just Outlook that makes it difficult. A few typical questions and an example will illustrate the problem and the solution.
"I had a 2:00 pm appointment in LA. I put the appointment on my calendar in Atlanta for 2:00 pm and when I got to LA and manually changed my time zone, it changed the time of my meeting by three hours! Why doesn't RIM fix such a horrible glitch?"
Because it's not a glitch. The problem is you put the appointment on your calendar in the wrong time zone. If you're on the east coast, don't put an appointment on the calendar for 2:00 pm eastern and expect it to read 2:00 pm pacific. It'll be off by three hours. Put it in as 2:00 pm pacific. When you're in ET, it'll show up as 11:00 am. When you arrive in LA and change to PT, your 2:00 pm PT appointment is correct. It's designed to be right when you cross time zones.
"I didn't put it in as 2:00 pm Eastern. I put the appointment in Outlook in local time."
Even though Outlook 2003 doesn't explicitly associate a time zone with an appointment when you enter the appointment, it's still made with the time zone setting from your computer. Eastern, in this case.
"But can't you go to options/date/time and set the time source to network? Wouldn't this cause the Blackberry to update to the new time zone?"
No. With Date/Time source set to Network, the Blackberry pulls the time from the network, but still applies the GMT offset for the time zone you selected. It will update your minutes, not your hours. You still have to change the time zone manually.
Here's a worked out example:
Time Zone: ET
Date/Time Source: Network
Sitting at my desk in the Eastern time zone with the Blackberry options as shown, I enter an appointment on my Blackberry calendar for 1:00 pm Central, using the time zone dropdown in the Blackberry Calendar entry screen. When I save the appointment, it shows up on my Blackberry Calendar (and Outlook) as 2:00 pm, correct for Eastern time. I ride to the airport, get on the plane, and turn off my phone, which is still set to Eastern time and Network. I fly to Alabama, which is in the Central time zone.
We land in Huntsville, and the Flight Attendant announces the Local Time is 10:16 am. I turn on the phone. The phone displays 11:16 am on the Home Screen. I look in Date/Time Options. Time Zone: ET. Time: 11:16 am. Network Time: 10:16 am. I change the time zone to CT. Now Time reads 10:16 am. The phone shows 10:16 am on the Home Screen. And the calendar correctly shows I have an appointment at 1:00 pm Central time.
I agree, it would be better if the phone "knew" I changed time zones. But it doesn't. All it knows is that there is a 1-hr discrepancy between "time" and "network time." It could prompt you with something like "The local time is different from your Blackberry time by 1 hr. Would you like to change your time zone to CT?" Now that would be smart! And better than having to change it manually. Another solution would be to decouple the calendar from the clock. Again, phones without calendars can just display network time and not have to worry about time zones. That's why older phones can do this, and naturally, users expect a newer, smarter phone to do it, too. But Rim's implementation works, as long as you enter appointments in the correct time zone.
"O.k., I got all that. But my Blackberry does automatically change time zones. It just doesn't change to the correct one! It keeps changing back to my home time zone when I'm traveling. Why is that?"
In Desktop Manager/Synchronize, you have the option to "Update Device's Date and Time" when you sync. If this box is checked, every time you connect to Desktop Manager, either to sync your Blackberry or to back-up, Desktop Manager will set your Blackberry to your computer time. If you left your laptop set to your home time zone, then synching will cause your Blackberry to change back to your home time zone. If you select "Network Time" as your Blackberry time source, you don't need this setting. Unchecking it will keep Desktop Manager from changing your Blackberry time.
Source: the Blackberry FAQ: Why doesn't my time update correctly when I change Time Zones? - BlackBerryFAQ
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on network time formats. I don't know what the carrier cell site broadcasts. The time code may include time zone information. If it does, the Blackberry doesn't appear to know it.
Last edited by JeffH; 07-12-08 at 05:13 PM. Reason: added info re Desktop Manager Sync time issue
- 06-26-08, 01:14 AM #2
* Nice job Jeff! *
It makes perfect sense to me!
It is not as if it is that big of a hassel to think about where you will be and at what time an appointment is going to be when you create it, and to change the time on these devices when you enter a different time zone.
I do have to admit that it did got me the first time it happened! You do have to put some thought into it!
Kudos to to you for a good job!
- 06-26-08, 12:07 PM #4
In the US this is very easy as there are only a few time zones. It gets tricky when you travel overseas, but if you travel there often, you should probably know what time zone they're in and the difference. BTW, good job Jeff.
- 07-13-08, 01:03 PM #6
I know that most folks believe that Rim's implementation of Timezones and Scheduling appts into their correct timezones is appropriate.
Some of us would prefer that our devices to just allow us to schedule an appt in a different timezone and NOT WORRY about where that appt will occur or have the BB shift the appt when we arrive in that different timezone (TZ) and change that TZ.
In one of the many threads dealing with and/or complaining about this behavior, someone mentioned that the way to avoid this TZ shifting and appt ambiguity is that rather than change the TZ when you arrive in a new location, rather just use the Date/Time function and JUST CHANGE THE TIME - leave the TZ as it is (wrong). Your appts would not be time shifted but your device will show the correct time.
I hope this does not confuse this thread and adds some helpful information for folks who march to a different drummer in a different Timezone.
- 07-13-08, 02:43 PM #9
I have used this a number of times as a resource for the famous "Time Zone" question that pops up so often!! Thanks for the great info, and I cannot believe I had not let you know how much I appreciate this thread before now!! Thanks
- CrackBerry User
07-27-08, 10:54 PM #13
- 10 Posts
Thank you and a follow up
Thank you for you the information I just got my first blackberry and made my first trip into a new time zone. I was surprised when it did not update and did not know what to do. So it seems to me and please let me know if I am wrong. I do not cross time zones that often that simplest thing to do is to just leave it all Eastern and then simply change it when I cross.
If you normally live in the Eastern time zone, then yes, your BlackBerry and your PC should be set to Eastern time. If you have an appointment in Central time, for example, then enter the appointment in your BlackBerry calendar using Central time. Then when you cross into Central time, change the time zone setting on your BlackBerry and your appointment will be shown on the calendar at the correct time.
Posted from my CrackBerry at wapforums.crackberry.com
- CrackBerry Newbie
09-03-08, 10:30 PM #15
- 2 Posts
Jeff, you've taken one too many hits of the crackberry pipe. Your followers are blindly following. Do any of them travel?
If I change the time zone as you suggest, it will change every appointment (past, present, future) in my handheld--not just the ones that I would want it to change over the course of my trip. This means that the vast majority of the appointments on my handheld would be wrong. Foolish! It's nealry as foolish as Microsoft. Have you ever changed your timezone in Windows? Microsoft Outlooks takes it upon itself to change every appointment in your calendar (past, present, future) including All Day Events. Suddenly, I was born at 11pm the day before my birthday. I'll save a Microsoft rant for another post but I will draw the parallel of foolishness between the approaches.
An alternative solution would be for RIM to allow my handheld to simply take the time from the Network. (it's ludicrous that the "Network" setting doesn't take the time from the network. It allows us to be wrong by a full time zone!) Allow me to do what's natural and enter the local time of apppointments. Then, when I get off that plane and power up my phone, I am required to make no manual changes and I will see all appointments in local time. In the prophetic words of Guinness, "BRILLIANT!"
Yes, I travel frequently. In fact, I work in a different time zone from my permanent address, so I have first hand experience with the confusion. I've even put appointments on my calendar in the wrong time zone and confused myself. So I completely understand your frustration.
That said, if you or I or anybody simply pays attention to the correct time zone when entering an appointment, it will always be right. Rim's system works.
Are there equally good alternatives? Maybe. You could disconnect the calendar from the clock, so that all appointments were in "local time," whereever you are. Better would be to fix Outlook so that you could enter the time zone of a meeting explicitly, not get the default. I'm told that Outlook 2007 allows that, but we haven't upgraded.
As to your Outlook rant, count me a supporter. I'm spending the next 30 days in Central Time. All my all-day appointments are entered in Eastern Time. So when I change Outlook's time, yep, all my all-days start at 11:00 pm the day before.
Finally, not everyone has taken the hit yet. There are quite a few of you time zone rebels...
Welcome to the Forums! For more exciting but probably less controversial notes, be sure to check out the Getting Started Guide and the BlackBerry 101 Lecture Series under the BlackBerry Help tab at the top of the page.
- CrackBerry Newbie
09-05-08, 10:05 AM #17
- 2 Posts
Thanks for the thoughtful response. I do appreciate your insight even though I don't agree. I'm fearful that this issue will drive me back to the Palm that I'm desperately trying to leave. I'm glad to hear that there are others who remain frustrated as RIM might provide us a better solution.
As for your proposed solution, I don't want to "pay attention" to time zone because RIM nor MS has made it convenient to pay attention. They don't list TZ next to the time. That's like not listing currency code next to an amount field in a financial transaction system. After I get off that plane and switch my system to my new time zone, every appointment in my calendar (non Full Day Events) changes by one hour (assuming one time zone). My first issue that you haven't addressed is that I will see the change to appointments that are in my original time zone. This is wrong and it's ~90% of my appointments. I'll need to be constantly "paying attention" and RIM isn't putting accurate or complete information (missing TZ) in my hands. It gets all the more complex for those who travel among more than two time zones. My second issue/question is how well your approach works. You haven't provided much insight as to how this would really work with viewing past and future appointments in TZ1 or TZ3, road synchs, etc. In your approach, do I need to change my laptop time zone? Is it 100% accurate when regularly swapping between multiple time zones. I know something about software testing and bet they shortcut this one. MS is terrible at this same issue. Also, what happens if you perform a synch while in that other time zone? There are simply too many variables and moving parts for them to get this complicated approach right.
When you write "you could disconnect the calendar from the clock", is that functionality supported in current version of RIM or a possible proposed solution for future?
I plan to run out and buy Outlook 2007 and will let you know how that proposed solution works.
My last request for today--I'm also having tremendous difficulty syncing my Outlook Calendar with my handheld. It works for two or three synchs and then suddenly recognizes massive amounts of differences where I've made no edits to either handheld or Outlook. I realize this is off topic so can you point me to forum topic to help me with that issue? It would be much appreciated.
Has anyone made the jump easily from Palm to RIM without starting with a fresh calendar? Thanks!
Before you give up on the BlackBerry, there is one other possible source of help that may be on the way. Pocket Informant, which was my favorite Windows Mobile app, is in beta testing for the BlackBerry. WebIS used to have a Time Zone Manager program for Windows Mobile. Back then I didn't travel so much, so I never checked it out. If they port that program to the BlackBerry, it might be a good solution.
One of the independent developers that frequents the forum saw this thread and decided to create a time zone manager program as well. The last time I talked to him, he'd moved the project to a lower priority after discovering Rim didn't expose the necessary code hooks he needed to make it work. That could stop WebIS as well.
Now, to address as many of your points as I can...As for your proposed solution, I don't want to "pay attention" to time zone because RIM nor MS has made it convenient to pay attention. They don't list TZ next to the time. That's like not listing currency code next to an amount field in a financial transaction system.After I get off that plane and switch my system to my new time zone, every appointment in my calendar (non Full Day Events) changes by one hour (assuming one time zone). My first issue that you haven't addressed is that I will see the change to appointments that are in my original time zone. This is wrong and it's ~90% of my appointments. I'll need to be constantly "paying attention" and RIM isn't putting accurate or complete information (missing TZ) in my hands. It gets all the more complex for those who travel among more than two time zones.My second issue/question is how well your approach works. You haven't provided much insight as to how this would really work with viewing past and future appointments in TZ1 or TZ3, road synchs, etc. In your approach, do I need to change my laptop time zone? Is it 100% accurate when regularly swapping between multiple time zones. I know something about software testing and bet they shortcut this one. MS is terrible at this same issue.Also, what happens if you perform a synch while in that other time zone? There are simply too many variables and moving parts for them to get this complicated approach right.When you write "you could disconnect the calendar from the clock", is that functionality supported in current version of RIM or a possible proposed solution for future?I plan to run out and buy Outlook 2007 and will let you know how that proposed solution works.
I hope this info helps, and I hope you can find a way to stay with the BlackBerry.
- CrackBerry Newbie
09-08-08, 05:28 PM #19
- 3 Posts
Not sure if this helps the discussion...
In Outlook 2007, you can indicate the time zone when you set the appointment. But, aside from telling me what time zone the appointment is scheduled for, it doesn't really do anything different - if I change time zones, all of my appointments change to local time whether I indicate a specific zone or not. But, it does help to know that I put that in for 10:00 Eastern or Central or whichever zone so I can keep stuff straight when I travel.
- CrackBerry Abuser
09-11-08, 08:03 AM #21
- 190 Posts
Jeff, I think RIM should pay you for your contribution to the BB community
I have a question though, I often prepare myself for the start of the week by reading my weekly schedule to have it burnt in my head, when there is an appointment in a differnet time zone it won't show the correct appointment time until I change the time zone, correct?
Ex. If I live in LA and have an appointment in NY, when I read my calendar before I travel it will show the appointment in LA time.
The same thing happens when I come back from my trip and and review my schedule for the past week.
Sorry for the confusion, but I guess my question is if there is a way for the appointment to read "the appointment time" regardless of the timezone.
To illustrate: You live in LA, so your PC and BB are set to PT. You have an appointment in New York on Monday at 11:00 am ET. For simplicity, let's say you enter your appointment using your BlackBerry calendar input screen, not Outlook. When you enter that appointment, you enter the meeting time as 11:00 am Eastern Time, using the BlackBerry dropdown time zone selector. When you press escape and save the meeting, it will show up on your BlackBerry calendar as 8:00 am Pacific Time. That is the correct appointment time, because 11:00 am ET is 8:00 am PT, it's just not what you were expecting to see.
If you're sitting in LA on Saturday, looking at the week ahead, your calendar shows you have an appointment Monday in NY at 8:00 am PT. The problem with this, of course, is that the calendar doesn't add the PT descriptor to the time. So you look at 8:00 am on Saturday in LA, you burn in 8:00 am, not 11:00 am.
It's even more disconcerting when you're flying home to LA with a stopover in Denver and your departure time overlaps your arrival time.
If you want your calendar to be correct in every time zone, there's no way around this, simply because 11:00 am ET is 8:00 am PT. Airlines confuse the matter by showing departure and arrival times in the correct local time at each stop, which is good, but don't include the time zone on their itineraries, which is very bad. The military solves it by using GMT, which is always correct everywhere and requires no time zone adjustments, but is disconnected from the local time. "Dumb" phones solve the problem by not including a calendar, so they can simply adjust to the correct local time. Very convenient and easy without a calendar.
What I would like to see would be the ability to show the appointment in the appointment time zone, color coded in some way so you'd know the time zone was different from the device time zone. With that, your 11:00 am ET appointment could be shown on your calendar in LA at 11:00 am in the ET color. Alternatively, if you could tell the calendar "Show Monday's appointments in ET," then you could look ahead at appointments in your destination time zone, while still in your departure time zone.
Either of these two options could conceivably be implemented. I don't know that anyone is working on them. I seriously doubt RIM ever will. If a 3rd party developer did it, I think it would sell. As I've posted earlier, the folks that sell Pocket Informant used to sell a time zone program for Windows Mobile. If they port that to BlackBerry, it could help. (I keep saying that, hoping they'll read it. I have no connection to the company; I just used PI when I was on WM.)
I know this isn't the answer you were looking for, but it's all there is at the moment.
- CrackBerry Abuser
09-11-08, 10:49 AM #23
- 190 Posts
Thank you Jeff. That was extremely helpful. I just wish RIM or a 3rd party software devloper would listen to you to improve the BB community.
Anyway, I will keep in mind the timezone issue while looking at the week ahead.
- CrackBerry Newbie
09-15-08, 08:38 PM #24
- 3 Posts
I understand now, but its still stupid
[QUOTE=JeffH;427982]"Why doesn't my Blackberry update the time correctly when I travel across time zones?"
Yeah I am a newbie, and yeah I did read all of the article, yeah I get it, but its still stupid to be smarter than your smartphone!!!
So here is the solution: on the Date Time Screen in the options folder/ options page: on a new line below DATE/TIME SOURCE, ADD a new option called DATE/TIME DISPLAY!! Your choices would be Network or TZ.
The "Display" code could easily be separate from all the incestuous interworkings of the Calendar, Outlook etc.
Could this new line of code be that difficult for BB to write?
Could the Crackberry Gods suggest this to their BB corporate contacts at the next trade show??
Is there a 3rd party program that solves this?
Thanks for taking the TIME to let the new guy vent.
- "Just cause it tastes bad, and your mommy explains why it tastes bad, doesnt mean you shouldnt demand to change the recipe" -Betty "Blackberry" Crocker.... or SunTzu, maybe Plato
Thank's for taking the time to read and consider the time zone issue. Your suggestion does offer a simple way of displaying the local time. As long as you don't have appointments on your calendar, everything will be fine. Coding isn't really necessary, since you can already see "Network Time" on the Date / Time screen.
However, appointment times will still be in the time zone they were originally given. There is no way to input appointments in "Local Time."
I like your quote. Just because there are good reasons why it's difficult is no reason why it should remain difficult. There are a number of Rim insiders in the forums. Everytime somebody posts to this thread, it potentially reminds them that this is an annoyance to many users. Thanks for your help in keeping the issue on their collective mind.