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RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8220
With BlackBerry's Storm reportedly racking up over 100,000 pre-orders in the UK you could be forgiven for overlooking this model, the company's first flip phone, but that would be a mistake as the 8220 has plenty to offer those who aren't ready or willing to make the leap to a touch-screen device.
The 8220 owes its existence to America's love affair with the flip format. BlackBerry reckons that there are many in the US who simply won't buy a phone unless it has a flip design, so it simply had to create a model to cater for these refuseniks. We're not so flip obsessed in the Europe, but heh, more choice is never really a bad thing so we're not going to complain.
With the flip closed the phone is the most compact in the BlackBerry range, but when open it looks taller than Yao Ming. Measuring a full 18cm from head to toe, it initially feels a little bit large when you've got it up to your ear during calls, but you soon get used to it. From the front the finish looks pretty classy thanks to the glossy black paint job and chrome trim around the edge. Unfortunately this hasn't been carried over to the rear. Instead you get a cheap plastic battery cover that looks and feels quite flimsy.
Opening up the phone, things improve as the hybrid keyboard is surprisingly large and actually has much bigger buttons than those on the Pearl 81xx series. It takes a while to get used to the two-letters-per-key layout, but once mastered you'll find you're able to tap out even long and complex emails at a decent speed.
The screen is also very good. It isn't the biggest around, but it's very bright and graphics look quite crisp and sharp thanks to its 240 x 320 resolution. There's also a smaller external screen, which BlackBerry has made good use of. For example, when an email is received a large envelope icon is first displayed before the display swaps to show a preview of the contents of the message. Similarly, in music mode it's used to show album art and the name of the currently playing song.
The 8220 uses BlackBerry's latest V4.6 operating system, which has a redesigned interface with a cleaner and simpler layout. On the whole the new interface is a big step forward, but there's still room for improvement. Although the new icons look great, it's not always obvious what they relate too. There are also too many textual menus dotted around the place for our liking, but with time we're sure BlackBerry will improve on this.