The Pearl marks a number of firsts for Blackberry when it comes to media. It's the first expandable device - a MicroSD card lives under the battery, awkwardly, meaning you can copy music and video across. There's a 1.3-megapixel camera on the back, meaning you can take rudimentary pictures - the quality is fine, on par with every other 1.3MP camera in phones, but the market has moved on to 2-megapixel or greater. The music player enables you to listen to your MP3s through the headphones, and you can also set MP3s as ringtones. This will, no doubt, appeal to hip kids looking for a portable music fix. But just who is hip enough to have a Blackberry and not an iPod?
So does the Blackberry Pearl do its job? Well, as a consumer device, it's a definite success. It's slim, it looks great, ticks all the right boxes and adds the killer instant email feature. For kids who are on email all the time, its a great feature - and the fact that RIM is already starting to ship truckloads of these things seems to back that up. But email as a personal tool is on its way out, with social networks and instant messenger rapidly taking its place. Couple that with the fact the media functionality is average and it looks like a pony that does one trick well and merely nuzzles at a few others.
As a business device, it's clearly the next in the 'must-have' line of devices. But there's a caveat here - old-school users will possibly find the new form factor and controls too much of a jerk away from the previous iterations, and will likely lack the patience required to learn SureType.
Where this scores, business wise, is with small businesses - the fact that Vodafone has a number of reasonably priced Blackberry plans; the fact the device is small enough to use as a standard phone rather than a dedicated email device; the fact it's swanky enough to show off to your mates and colleagues; the fact that it has simple email forwarding without needing an Enterprise server - it's going to make instant email even more pervasive amongst businesses by growing the marketplace 'downward' rather than just serving as a replacement for older handsets still in the pockets of big corporations. In that respect, the Pearl is definitely a winner.