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Hands On: BlackBerry's Qwerty-less 'Pearl 3G'

Gordon Kelly


Hands On: BlackBerry's Qwerty-less 'Pearl 3G'

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...


BlackBerry Pearl 3G


April 27, 2010, 4:58 am

I am no fan of RIM, from the business to their design model for their hardware and software. It baffles me that a company as such can still be in business especially in this ever evolving, fast paced mobile market.

Releasing very minute iterations(not with this model above but) in the overall design of their handsets like rounding corners or adding leather and combining it with last year's hardware. Yet, they still manage to hold a tangible size of the market which to me is almost as unbelievable as the pollyannish attitude and charisma of the people in the Welcome to Lagos show(UK viewers BBC2).

That said, they certain are doing something right so well I will wait to see what new features their new OS brings but I doubt I will be left impressed.


April 27, 2010, 5:27 am

Wow that ad halfway down the homepage is unbelievably obtrusive and annoying. I totally get the need for advertising and I click on your ads frequently just for the sake of it but you're really ruining the experience.


April 27, 2010, 5:48 am

@adoniteINK - I don't use a BlackBerry myself, but I have extensive experience with them and I think what you say is harsh. Certainly RIM has so far failed to produce a revolutionary touchscreen experience to match the iPhone/best Android handsets, but its software is rock solid and its handsets are very well built and serve its primary sector (the business market) very well.

It will be an interesting year for RIM and I think with all it has achieved to date it deserves time to see what it will bring. Remember the Pearl 3G suddenly brings the Bold 9700 spec to the masses - so what could it have up its sleeve for the high end? I'm optimistic...

@ravmania - we love you contributions Rav, but this is a very old issue discussed at much length in the past. The ad has been there for nearly 12 months and while editorial has long expressed its frustration with its placement (none more than me in running the news section) the current economy dictated it in order to keep bringing you top notch content for free.

We have exciting plans already in motion to take TR to the next level and an ad in the middle of the front page isn't part of it! Bear with us - it should we worth the wait ;)


April 27, 2010, 12:16 pm


Sorry. I know it has been there for ages and it has been discussed to death. This was just the first time I've seen it expand to cover half the page! Like I said I totally do get the need for them.


April 27, 2010, 2:14 pm

That's a really smart looking little handset, nice specs but what a pity they aren't going to bring out a qwerty version.

I find it nigh on impossible to go use T9 after using a blackberry's for so long.


April 27, 2010, 3:30 pm


In terms of software execution. their OS is certainly great at what it does.

Perhaps the next wave of handsets that come with OS6 "could" possibly change my perspective but I see no reason why they should hold out on improvements in tech, multimedia and asthetic/design for their handsets especially when you factor the price point and what other competitors offer regardless of the device input.

BB messaging may be the sole attraction now but mobile service providers are beginning to offer packages that give better value compared to the BB service premium. If they continue with their business model, I wouldnt be suprised to hear when BB eventually becomes the new Palm.

with all that said, I will keep observing that optimism and hope that their plans for mid/high end phones will be a big step forward.


May 3, 2010, 4:25 pm

"I wouldnt be surprised to hear when BB eventually becomes the new Palm."

@ adoniteINK: I see what you mean, but I have to point out that BlackBerry have been doing exceptionally well in terms of sales recently ( http://bit.ly/vS8PH ).

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