However, as befits the name, email is where this device comes into its own. There are a couple of ways you can set up email, and this will depend on the way you intend it to fit into your lifestyle. If you're a business, you'll be integrating this with your existing Blackberry or push email setup using Blackberry Enterprise Server as normal, and there's nothing different to add. If you're a personal user, you have the option to associate the device with a number of personal accounts. The exact way you do this gives you a couple of choices.
We set up email using Vodafone. Vodafone makes you sign up for an account, on your phone, which you can then associate with your email address - and you also get a dedicated email address @blackberry.com for your troubles. Your email preferences and accounts are manageable from both the phone itself and the web, although throughout our testing we found that the Vodafone web email maintenance for Blackberry was beyond flakey - 90 per cent of the time the site wasn't up, and the other 10 per cent of the time, we found it seemed to decide at random that our password wasn't correct. Not exactly a great experience.
Using the phone, we set up our device to receive emails from our .Mac email address. Merely typing in our email address and password set the Blackberry up, since it 'knows' what to do to grab email from most of the big web email service providers like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL. However, we found that this service was intermittent at best. Emails were not arriving on our phone in anything like a decent amount of time, and some emails we sent were simply not arriving at their destination. We found the same thing for our Gmail account, which suffered from lost emails in both directions.
Luckily, this is not the only way to set up personal mail. Should your email account support it (and almost everything does) you can set up a dedicated forwarding rule, which means that everything coming into your email account gets forwarded to another email address. We set up .Mac to forward to our @blackberry.com email address, then set the 'From' field on the device to spoof the .Mac email address. This resulted in all emails being immediately forwarded over to the device, and replies being sent back with no hassles. Result!
Actually sending emails is a unique experience, thanks to the SureType keyboard. This has two letters on each of the keys, making for a T9-like experience, familiar to anyone who's used predictive text on a mobile phone. However, unlike a normal phone keypad, SureType still adheres to the QWERTY layout, making this a bizarre hybrid that takes a good few days of typing to get used to. SureType is a better predictive engine than T9, since there are only two keys on each button, rather than three. It does handy things like capitalising names and adding apostrophes for you, and you'll find that 90 per cent of the time, just pressing the buttons gives you the exact message you're looking for - the amount of interference to manually override SureType is minimal, and this is definitely a good thing.
But whilst the engine behind the typing is slick, actually using the device can be a less than rewarding experience. If you have large fingers/hands, you'll find using the Pearl's minuscule keyboard a real problem. Hitting the wrong key occurs frequently and entering numbers on the middle section of the phone that has the numbers is a bizarrely frustrating annoyance. A week's worth of use will get you used to this, and make you better, but it's a very frustrating week, and one that full-size Blackberry users don't have to endure. This is the pay-off for the form factor.
As for attachments, the Blackberry has decent handling of the most common types. JPGs and other pictures are easily viewed. Word documents are converted into a format suitable for the screen, but you can forget about editing them and sending them back. PDFs are also compatible. However, our attempt to get some multimedia going by emailing an MP3 was met with a staunch refusal to open, which is slightly disappointing given the media functionality in the device.