RIM's candybar-style BlackBerry Pearl has proved a popular handset. This compact smartphone's small screen and relatively cramped keyboard will not suit everyone, but it does work well for those who don't need to enter a lot of text. The company has just updated the Pearl with several new features to stand alongside the core BlackBerry email support.
The BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 will be widely available from mobile operators including Vodafone, T-Mobile and O2, and will also be available SIM-free.
The BlackBerry Pearl 3G has a compact, pocket-friendly design. It weighs just 93g and measures 50mm wide by 108mm by 13.3mm. The 360-by-400-pixel screen is necessarily small at just 2.3in. across the diagonal, which makes it a little challenging to use for media-rich tasks like web browsing. However, the display is pleasingly sharp and bright.
The BlackBerry Pearl keyboard generally has a unique layout, with two QWERTY characters sharing a single key and the RIM SureType system for predictive text entry. Both remain in the US version of the Pearl 3G, but in the UK, although SureType remains, the keyboard has a more traditional candybar layout.
The Pearl originally got its name thanks to a small pearlescent trackball that sat beneath the screen. This has been replaced by the optical touchpad that we've seen in other recent RIM smartphones. This touchpad looks too small to be efficient, but is, in fact, very easy to use and very responsive. It's also probably less prone to damage than the trackball was.
This is a quad-band GSM handset with 3G support. It also has Bluetooth (2.1), GPS and Wi-Fi — including 802.11n as well as the standard 802.11b/g. It's still rare for smartphones to support the faster 802.11n standard, so it's good to see it here. There's 256MB of ROM and the same amount of RAM, plus a microSD card slot for additional storage.
The usual array of BlackBerry applications is included, alongside support for up to ten email addresses and RIM's popular IM client. There are Facebook and Twitter clients pre-installed, and a location-aware search service called Poynt. RIM's App World application store is present too, and is shaping up into something quite useful.
The camera is a 3.2-megapixel unit with autofocus, LED flash and 2.5X digital zoom. There's a 3.5mm headset slot on the top left and quick-access media control buttons on the curved top edge. RIM rates the Pearl 3G's 1,150mAh battery for 18 days on standby and 5 hours of talk (GSM).