Blackberry Pearl

Full Blackberry functionality in a stylishly compact smartphone package

Research In Motion’s Blackberry Pearl offers all the usual Blackberry functionality, but within a much more compact handset, similar in size and weight to more traditional camera phones.

The Pearl is aimed at a much wider audience than the office bods and corporate users of previous models, where a lighter mobile email device is preferable.

The so called “candy bar” design makes the Pearl look just like a traditional handset, yet it brims with features that include push email via Blackberry servers. But, strangely, it lacks 3G network support and wireless connectivity, though RIM indicated that these would be available on “planned” Pearl updates, so watch this space.

Easy operation is much enhanced by the excellent trackball navigation that both scrolls through applications or menu options and confirms choices by pressing it in, just like a button. And it is this glowing, pearlescent button-come-trackball that gives the handset its name - and which sits just below the clear, sharp and colourful screen, and just above the handset’s keys.

One downside is the handset’s small size means you get two letters per key and predictive text to help fill-in the word you’re typing. So-called SureType is anything but however, and proves very frustrating, particularly when entering web or email address that use non-standard characters for example.

The same keys are also the handset’s phone keypad - so you can dial straight from the screen - while the green “call” button lets you view recent calls or look up contacts in the built-in address book.

Emails sent to and from the Blackberry arrived swiftly and viewing web pages was a cinch although some pages seemed to display oddly with the built-in browser. The media player built into the handset means you can store and listen to MP3 music, but you’ll need to use a microSD external storage card to store them, as the internal memory is limited to a modest 64Mb.

The Blackberry Pearl has a 1.3-megapixel digital camera and an internal MicroSD Flash card slot to expand on its 64MB of built-in Flash storage. It also supports Bluetooth to link to wireless headsets. However, battery life seems a bit on the low side. Yes, the claimed 15-days of standby time is about average for such devices, but the three and half hours of talk time can be seriously dented if you use the handset for browsing the internet, playing the neat built-in games or listening to your music.

Compact and stylish, the Pearl puts full Blackberry functionality in your shirt pocket. And yet the compromises forced upon it may not be to your liking. That said, it works well enough, and it's sure to be high on the wants list of those who absolutely need to be able to read their emails while sunning themselves on a beach (that's all of us on this site then).