The left side of the device has got the mini-USB power jack, the 2.5mm headphone jack and a quick-key that is, by default, programmed to activate voice dialling. The right side of the device, traditionally housing the scroll wheel, now has volume up/down buttons and a quick-key that activates the camera. The top of the device has a mute button which can be quickly used to switch it between normal and silent. The positioning of these buttons is not ideal. Having the headphone jack on the side of the device makes the whole thing a little clunky in the pocket, with the ‘phones sticking out the side of the device at an angle, rather than lining up nicely with the top. Ditto for the power socket on the side, which would seem to work better located at the bottom of the device. These are minor quibbles, but ones that hint at the device’s heritage as a quirky business device, not one designed from the ground up for mass consumer usage.
The screen is full colour, and looks gorgeous and crisp. While it is smaller than your normal Blackberry screen, emails are still eminently readable and it’s easy to navigate your way round the device. Reading email attachments and looking at photographs is also pretty doable, since the screen has a bright backlight. The screen has a 240 x 260 resolution, and is 2.25in diagonal.
Despite the fact that the screen is slightly smaller, resolution wise, than your average Windows smartphone, this doesn’t make much difference to surfing the web, which is not an ideal occupation on any of these devices – bring on the iPhone? PDA versions of sites work fine on the Blackberry, and the browser makes a competent job of trying to format normal websites for the device.
Phone functionality is perfectly adequate – call quality is fine, although not best in class – we found that the speaker and mic were a little less clear than found in some phones which really nail call quality, such as the Samsung D600. However, they’re definitely on the better side of usable, which means you’ll have no problems making and taking calls. As with other recent devices, the Pearl includes a Bluetooth module so that you can use it with a range of handsfree kits. There are dedicated call and hangup buttons, and we suspect you’ll want to stay away from the decidedly mediocre wired handsfree kit that comes bundled.
In terms of talk time, the Pearl is capable. We found that normal use – some phone calls, some emails, some web browsing – saw the device last around four days before the battery got too low. The specs claim about four hours of actual talk time, which seems about right. It’s quad band, so you can use it around the world – handy for getting your email wherever you are!
The phone comes with Blackberry desktop software, which allows you to synchronise your contacts with a number of different applications, including Outlook. How exactly you manage your contacts will depend on whether you buy your Blackberry for personal use or whether it’s provided to you as part of a corporate deployment but, either way, adding people and general and maintenance is easy. As for the other PIM applications, they’re decidedly mediocre – the Calendar is a plain text affair that is limited by the size of the screen.