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BlackBerry Pearl - Curse of the Black(berry) Pearl

By Wil Harris



Our Score:


The left side of the device has got the mini-USB power jack, the 2.5mm headphone jack and a quick-key that is, by default, programmed to activate voice dialling. The right side of the device, traditionally housing the scroll wheel, now has volume up/down buttons and a quick-key that activates the camera. The top of the device has a mute button which can be quickly used to switch it between normal and silent. The positioning of these buttons is not ideal. Having the headphone jack on the side of the device makes the whole thing a little clunky in the pocket, with the 'phones sticking out the side of the device at an angle, rather than lining up nicely with the top. Ditto for the power socket on the side, which would seem to work better located at the bottom of the device. These are minor quibbles, but ones that hint at the device's heritage as a quirky business device, not one designed from the ground up for mass consumer usage.

The screen is full colour, and looks gorgeous and crisp. While it is smaller than your normal Blackberry screen, emails are still eminently readable and it's easy to navigate your way round the device. Reading email attachments and looking at photographs is also pretty doable, since the screen has a bright backlight. The screen has a 240 x 260 resolution, and is 2.25in diagonal.

Despite the fact that the screen is slightly smaller, resolution wise, than your average Windows smartphone, this doesn't make much difference to surfing the web, which is not an ideal occupation on any of these devices - bring on the iPhone? PDA versions of sites work fine on the Blackberry, and the browser makes a competent job of trying to format normal websites for the device.

Phone functionality

Phone functionality is perfectly adequate - call quality is fine, although not best in class - we found that the speaker and mic were a little less clear than found in some phones which really nail call quality, such as the Samsung D600. However, they're definitely on the better side of usable, which means you'll have no problems making and taking calls. As with other recent devices, the Pearl includes a Bluetooth module so that you can use it with a range of handsfree kits. There are dedicated call and hangup buttons, and we suspect you'll want to stay away from the decidedly mediocre wired handsfree kit that comes bundled.

In terms of talk time, the Pearl is capable. We found that normal use - some phone calls, some emails, some web browsing - saw the device last around four days before the battery got too low. The specs claim about four hours of actual talk time, which seems about right. It's quad band, so you can use it around the world - handy for getting your email wherever you are!

The phone comes with Blackberry desktop software, which allows you to synchronise your contacts with a number of different applications, including Outlook. How exactly you manage your contacts will depend on whether you buy your Blackberry for personal use or whether it's provided to you as part of a corporate deployment but, either way, adding people and general and maintenance is easy. As for the other PIM applications, they're decidedly mediocre - the Calendar is a plain text affair that is limited by the size of the screen.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut


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 !!!!


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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