As with the Curve 8520, this handset runs V5.0 of the BlackBerry OS, which is the latest version of the operating system. We don’t think BlackBerry OS is quite as user-friendly as the iOS or Android, but the push email system is still second to none, it has good support for multitasking and there’s a decent range of apps available in the BlackBerry App World store. The OS now also gathers emails, tweets and Facebook updates together so they appear in the same unified inbox and the handset was very stable during use. It’s speedy too, with little if any slow down in evidence even with lots of apps open - something that's down to its use of the same internal hardware as the full-size BlackBerrys.
But although BlackBerry’s trump card is email, it’s less impressive when it comes to web browsing. The browser itself is reasonably good but its usability is compromised by the phone’s smaller screen. The Pearl 3G’s display measures just 2.5in across the diagonal and although its resolution of 360 x 400 pixels isn’t bad for a candy bar shaped handset, it’s obviously much more cramped than the larger screens found on today’s touch-based handsets like the iPhone and HTC Legend. As a result, using it to view web pages can sometimes feel like trying to paint your hallway by reaching through your letterbox.
Nevertheless, on the connectivity front you couldn’t really ask for more from this handset as along with the 3G support, the phone also has Wireless N Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. As we’ve come to expect from BlackBerry phones, call quality and battery life were also excellent. We found that the Pearl 3G would happily keep running for around four days of usage, which is pretty much double what you’d expect to get from most large touchscreen smartphones.
Cameras aren’t always as welcome on business orientated phones as they are on devices aimed at consumers. In fact, some companies have gone as far as banning their use on company premises. However, as the Pearl 3G is likely to be popular among consumers as well as business types it obviously needs a decent camera. Thankfully, Research In Motion has delivered the goods as the rear of the phone is home to a 3.2-megapixel camera that has both an LED flash and autofocus. Despite the rather average resolution of the sensor, the camera actually takes quite impressive shots that capture rich-looking colours and decent amounts of detail.
As you would expect, the lack of a QWERTY keyboard means the Pearl 3G is not exactly an ideal phone to use for tapping out longer emails, so if you’re used to the keyboard on your current BlackBerry then this isn’t the handset to upgrade to. However, the phone is obviously targeted at those who want a smartphone that doesn’t look like a smartphone, but still retains all the same functionality. If you fall into this category then we’re sure you’ll love the Pearl 3G as it looks quite stylish, has superb email features and great connectivity.