Now here's something different...
RIM has surprised everyone this week by not only announcing a new form of BlackBerry handset, but also keeping it under wraps until the formal unveiling. Those security guard bonuses are clearly paying off guys.
So what have we got? The BlackBerry 'Pearl 3G'/Pearl 9105is RIM's first ever BlackBerry not to carry either a full Qwerty keyboard or the company's much loved SureType. Strangely in the US it will be SureType only and renamed the Pearl 9100, but in the UK it will be aimed at charming users who until now may have been reluctant to switch from their dumbphones or are perfectly comfortable typing messages using T9.
So in that regards the Pearl 3G is an entry level BlackBerry akin to the Curve 820? Again, no. Here's where the Pearl 3G really leaves us open mouthed: it is just as powerful and just as fully featured as the company's flagship Bold 9700. In short that means a 239ppi equivalent display (260 x 400 pixels are crammed into its screen), a rampaging 624MHz processor with 256MB of flash memory and yes: HSDPA, GPS, WiFi (802.11n no less), microSD expansion and a 3.2MP camera with autofocus, flash and video recording.
Incredibly, all this is packed into a 108 x 50 x 13.3mm form factor which - while a little chunky - is just two thirds the size of the 9700. It also weighs a mere 93g. Does this hurt the battery? No, the same 1150mAh capacity is somehow accommodated giving approximately 5.5 hours of talk time. So what's the what?
I snagged about 30 minutes with the Pearl 3G and in short, it's lovely. The build quality is exceptional and is every bit as good as the 9700 with nice styling touches which make it look suitably like its ambitious little brother. The screen is dazzling. It isn't OLED, but the colours are so sharp and vivid it is no pale imitation and operation, as you might expect, is just as sharp as any BlackBerry you'll care to use. On the downside it won't feature BlackBerry OS 6 from launch, but that was to be expected.
With everything up to scratch then the bigger question is pricing and this isn't available yet. With the spec inside it surely can't be as affordable as the Curve 8250, but it can't be too expensive or its lack of a Qwerty keyboard will be lost on the power users which typically dominate the upper reaches of the smartphone price brackets. Get it right and RIM could revolutionise the entry point for aspiring smartphone owners, get it wrong and it has created a beautiful freak that will satisfy no-one.
The Pearl 3G will launch in June across "multiple networks". No pressure RIM...