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BlackBerry Pearl review

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8

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Blackberry email devices have long been the plaything of the business classes. Nicknamed 'Crackberry' for its addictive qualities, those who pick up the device and subject themselves to the lure of its instant email siren frequently find themselves unable to put it down again, destined to live out a life of never-ending email ping pong.

"Sent via my Blackberry wireless device."

This has become the tagline of small and petty email exchanges across the globe. Thanks to RIM, the company behind the Blackberry, you could be about to see a whole lot more of this tagline, as it launches the BlackBerry Pearl, an email device designed for more than just corporate bumbling.

The new Blackberry Pearl is a smartphone device that looks more like an average mobile than an email device. It's in a slick candy bar form factor, and the metallic edgings give it a touch of class. It's got a firm weight in the hand that makes it feel solid, rather than heavy, and the piano black glossy finish means that you won't feel like a dork whipping it out, which is more than can be said for most smartphones.

The front fascia lacks the usual QWERTY keyboard found on most Blackberries, with a 20-key hybrid keyboard standing in. This works via the SureType system, which I'll talk about in a bit. However, regardless of its functionality, it's clear that this is compromise made to fit a half decent keyboard into the form factor. Just above the keyboard sits the Pearl that gives this model its name. The Pearl is a rollerball/trackball, which you can use to scroll up-down-left-right with the lightest of touch. This replaces the side-mounted scroll wheel synonymous with old-style Blackberry devices, and is designed to allow you to move quicker through the menus, rather than having to scroll sequentially through each item.

The Pearl is clickable, like many 'mini-joysticks' on phones these days. On either side are the menu button and the back button. The menu button does most of the same things that clicking the old side scroll wheel did, such as bringing up a menu for reply/forward/new in email, or GoTo URL/back/forward in a browser application. In practice, this new system of navigation is really nice, although doesn't have quite the same 'natural' feel of the side-mounted wheel. It takes some getting used to, and opinion in the office is split over which is favourable. Most people used to normal phones find the Pearl a fantastic navigation system; most diehard Crackberry addicts find it a little unnerving.

One thing is clear - this is a mass market device, not just for business email-heads.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

LA

September 24, 2008, 2:28 pm

I have the pearl and am becoming increasingly frustrated by "sim card error" which ocurrs after every phone call, email or text that i send, at least 10 times a day it goes to SOS mode and i have to open the back of the handset , take out the battery and re-adjust the sim. I have never despised a phone so much but unfortunately as it's offered through my work and i have no other option - i'm stuck with it . Oh and did i mention how awful the battery life is- enough said i think !!!!

TR

October 10, 2009, 7:10 pm

This is about a BlackBerry Pearl 8110 T-Mobile Pre-Pay with Unlimited Email & Internet bought for £119.99 from play.com.


A revised and updated model with improved specifications


Many of the issues are operator specific.





Could have been a real contender..





Do not misunderstand – you get an awful lot for the money, GPS, push e-mail, IM, and so on. Unfortunately, using what is supposed to be a 'fun' phone is marred by the boring bizniz leftovers and an unintelligent operator.





Firstly, it's not made clear that to enable the advertised features you must buy airtime.. I think that's unfair and deceptive. Once you've bought the airtime you have to send a txt. Unfortunately txting is disabled out of the box. Which is not mentioned anywhere. So, you're stuck. You have to call tech help, create an account on a website blah blah before you get basic phone functionality several hours later at a cost (of £1.50 – thanks for not giving me a refund t-mob). Not funny.





Most of what you can and can't do with the phone is controlled by the operator. This is after all, an obsolete bizniz phone repackaged as a consumer surf tool. A server pretty much controls what is or is not allowed. Presumably businesses like the paranoid control but most people like to use the stuff they buy. It seems that not much effort was expended at the server end to make this a really great consumer experience.





For example,


1. You can't change the default home page on the browser, which quite confusingly appears as two separate browsers, you can't properly edit or rearrange bookmarks. You don't fare much better with the alternative browsers that are permitted as compression feeds are interrupted, each item you fire one up you get a pop up that you cannot disable and you can't set any as the default browser.


2. The Bluetooth experience is an absolute nightmare – you can't tooth anything to the phone unless you open up a specific application and then make a tooth request from the phone – something which only works on a tiny selection of file formats anyway.


3. You are not permitted to use your choice of application, I managed to install google maps but can't perform map searches, communication is broken. That wouldn't be so galling if the phone's own map search wasn't so rubbishy.


4. I have been told by tech help (another 25p, thanks) that there is a 15 MB monthly limit on email. If that's actually true then it should have been made clear pre-sale and it pretty much makes a joke out of the Bilberry brand because that's what it's known for. I would add that the same tech help person also said that some net access would be chargeable but since I have not been seen any new charges once everything was enabled it seems that this tech help was wrong on both counts.


5. There is no access to the Bilberry's own App World. The App World application says that access is restricted by the operator and that I must 'upgrade to a service plan that includes browsing'. Eh, what was I doing? That's like O2 stopping access to Apple's iShop. I have absolutely no idea how access to a manufacturer's own app site could harm the operator.





I find the keys slippy and a little tough to work single-handedly with the thumb. The phone itself provides no grip to make thumb use easy - personal taste. Surfing and IM can exhaust the battery in a matter of hours. It's not the phone for an hourly commute.


The phone a real bind to get going and then disappointing in that you discover that what you have is half of what could have been and you can't do a lot of really normal stuff any more.


It is well, if perhaps slightly deceptively, priced, works and I don't have to worry about cost whilst waiting for web pages to load. If you're happy with consumer-baiting operator restrictions or don't like contracts then it is a good buy given that push mail costs about £5 per month. Since I also wonder what's going to happen after the 12 month deal expires and how much I will then be charged I'm using it as a very handy but disposable mail reminder tool – it's not replaced anything.

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