BlackBerry Pearl 8130
$149.95 on a three-year plan from Bell Mobility. $449.95 with no contract.
The Blackberry has obviously become synonymous with business. You can’t walk through any public place in downtown Toronto without seeing someone in a suit madly typing away on that mini keyboard with a dull, glazed expression on their face. Whether this is a bad thing is questionable, but the Blackberry has been trying to change its stripes with average cell phone users, and that’s essentially why the BlackBerry Pearl 8130 was created.
The old-style Blackberry phones, especially the 8830 World Edition, are fairly wide phones that scream “I’m doing business.” By contrast, the BlackBerry Pearl is a slim, sleek cell phone with a simple design, and a lot of character. Thanks to the layout and positioning of keys the phone also feels right in your hand and fits nicely against your ear for the all important phone calls.
Aimed primarily at people who want to be able to send and receive emails, but may not need to frequently type a lot, the Pearl has all of the features you would expect from Blackberry, but was designed for people who don’t want a huge handset. By shrinking the keyboard and doubling up on the keys, the phone uses predictive text and a few special options to let you type any message fairly easily. While this certainly involves a bit of a learning curve compared to a full-size QWERTY keyboard, it shouldn’t be a problem for the average person.
Included in the phone is a media player for music and video, access to Windows Live Messenger, an Internet browser, speakerphone, and GPS mapping. That’s also on top of the 2 megapixel camera and the Pearl’s trackball, which is of course the phone’s signature feature.
All of the features work well compared to the other Blackberry models, with the exception of the music player which is a disappointment due to lack of features, control, and poor layout. I was also slightly perplexed by the fact that the memory card slot is located, as with a lot of phones, behind the battery, which obviously makes it annoying to change cards. The phone’s web browser is also an oddity to me, mainly because it doesn’t seem to render a variety of pages very well.
On the bright side, and for most people who are thinking about getting this phone, the bright side is that the SureType functionality makes it fairly easy to type anything, and the trackball makes it easy to navigate through the phones features, or a web page. I will say that it took me a good two weeks to master typing quickly on the phone, but once you master it, text messages and emails are very easy. You won’t want to type out your life story on the Pearl, but it’s easy enough that you can send a 50-100 word note in short order.
Battery life on the phone is respectable, although like any device with a media player or lots of add-ons it is always surprising how much juice some of the features suck up. Using the phone primarily for a few phone calls and email meant I had to recharge every two days, on average. Since you can recharge the Pearl via USB cable that is not really a big deal, but I would not recommend using the Pearl as a media player or you may need to consider battery longevity carefully.
For the time I had it, I definitely enjoyed the Pearl and the access it gave me to email. I would definitely recommend it to small businesses looking for a slightly cheaper Blackberry, or consumers who just want email at the tip of their fingers. The Pearl is by no means a perfect smartphone, but it is well above the average, and with access to all of Blackberry’s features in a smaller package, the Pearl is impressive.
The only other word of caution for consumers is to just be careful with the package size you choose for data usage. A Blackberry can obviously get very expensive if you use more data transfer than you sign up for and if you’re receiving more than 60-100 emails a day, and downloading attachments, you will want to look at packages offering more than 10 megabytes of data transfer. In my tests I opened a number of attachments, and received upwards of 100 messages a day, and I just squeaked by 10 megabytes. That can make the phone pricey for some, but if you’re going above that limit I would almost certainly recommend that you take the leap and just buy a full-sized Blackberry.