BlackBerry Pearl: a first look

BlackBerry Pearl: a first look

Summary: With the BlackBerry Pearl 8100, RIM has attempted to square the circle. The aim was to make a device small enough to be a covetable phone, that operates as a smartphone, and is still a real BlackBerry.


It passes the size barrier with ease, at only 14.5mm thick by 107mm by 50mm, and weighing 89.5g, making it one of the smallest smartphones around. The BlackBerry Pearl 8100 is also sleek, black and shiny -- which is what users want, according to RIM's focus groups.

To pass muster as a phone with wide appeal, RIM has added a camera and a media player, as well as expandable storage via a microSD card. It's had to sacrifice the thumbwheel -- always a fundamental part of BlackBerrys in the past, and replace it with a trackball (which, we're told, is how it got its name of the Pearl).

New features
The trackball will probably be described as the jewel in the Pearl's crown. It glows a pleasant white, and can apparently be made to change colour with particular ring tones. It rolls easily and has a pleasant, slightly rough, feel. It's not clear how well it will last with prolonged use, of course.

Every part of this device shows the trade-offs that had to be made to make it pocket friendly. The camera is a standard 1.3 megapixel unit, but has a flash that appears to work well enough on automatic, and can capture basic images. Anyone expecting a top-notch camera in a phone is usually disappointed, but if you just expect to take shots to make a record of something, this is fine. Saved pictures can be easily accessed and sent via Bluetooth, MMS or email.

The media player seemed efficient enough; we played the enclosed sample tune, which sounded good over the included wired earphones.

Where's the SD card?
The microSD card is loaded not via a slot, but inside the device, behind the battery and next to the SIM card. The file manager and camera all open and closed files from the media card, and when connected to a PC in Mass Storage mode (using the included USB cable), the card is visible as a 1GB Flash drive.

Communications: is it a BlackBerry?
As you would expect, the quad-band BlackBerry Pearl excels at handling data over GPRS and EDGE networks. RIM sensibly decided to leave out 3G, while Wi-Fi is also absent, to save space and power.

Reading and writing emails is straightforward, and the keyboard follows earlier small-format BlackBerrys, by placing the QWERTY keys two-by-two on a 20-key pad, with shift and symbol keys working much as on any BlackBerry.

It has a wireless-off mode, for planes. We haven't checked the battery life or talk time yet (RIM claims 15 days on standby and 3.5 hours talk time), but the display is bright and easy to read text on.

Check back soon for a full review of the BlackBerry Pearl 8100. You can read more news from the launch event here.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Reviews

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  • Why just not get a MS Smart Phone? For example the Qtek8020? Uses outlook plus can be used for many other applications for example GPS/TomTom
  • A better buy is Mazingo's Voyager SmartPhone, SIP based Dual WiFi / GSM and has external mini SD Card Slot, MPEG4, MP3 & MP4 players + 2 Megapixel camera all on a Linux totally Open Platform.
    There is no walled garden Web access with SIP via WiFi hotspot, and low cost comms, including roaming, is a given.
    Go to to read view.
  • Make it talk to anything but Exchange and I'll get one.
  • BlackBerry Pearl

    I was looking for information on the mass storage mode and your article gave me exactly what I needed. A quick search in Google got me to your article. I am a new BlackBerry Pearl owner. I love the phone. It is obvious after having owned Motorola's and Nokia's and other phones over the years why BlackBerry has been so successful. I would be very interested in hearing about how the trackball holds up over time. This was my only real concern. However, so far it has been great. The only other features I was not thrilled with was the placement of the Micro SD Card and the headset. I wanted to buy an adapter(3.5mm to 2.5mm) to allow the use of a standard 3.5MM stereo over-the-ear headset. I bought the one that seemed to be recommended but I could not get any sound to come through the headset. I noticed there are some stereo headsets now that are 2.5MM that may work. I just haven't tried. The headset that ships with the Pearl works fine other than the fact that I don't like earbuds and I would prefer stereo sound. It is certainly not the best MP3 player with the short battery life. It is just convenient. If you have any ideas, let me know.