Executives have always been the addicted client base for the BlackBerry, due to it’s impressive email abilities. But the developers at RIM (Research In Motion) realized they were missing a huge segment of the market. So they spent two years engineering the Pearl and it was worth every minute.
I asked Mark Guibert, the VP of Corporate Marketing at RIM, who their target audience is for this device: “The new BlackBerry Pearl is helping attract many cell phone owners that hadn’t previously considered BlackBerry. It’s one of the smallest and lightest smartphones on the market and yet it still delivers the full BlackBerry experience that so many people have come to love. That’s a powerful combination.”
Now drastically slimmed down — 4.2 by 2 by 0.6 inches — it’s smaller than it’s competitors, mainly the Treo, Motorola Q and Sidekick. With it’s snazzy black and silver polish you’re tempted to show it off at any opportunity.
The discreet “pearl” in the middle of the device acts as your tracking wheel and is surpisingly easy to use. The new features are a camera (1.3 megapixels, with flash), memory-card slot, voice dialing, movie playback and a music player. Four instant-message programs are built in (AOL, Yahoo, MSN, ICQ). Texting teens weren’t interested in a BB until they could download ring tones and take pics.
With the ambient light sensor, I’ve been able to type comfortably in the dark, always a plus at a boring movie. The 240-by-260-pixel screen is just beautiful. Voice dialing, which is usually just an annoyance, is finessed on the Pearl, so you almost always get who you’re your calling, and not the local pizzeria, which is also in your speed dial. As with all BB models, you get real-time e-mail synchronization with PCs back at the office. For all the flash, it’s still the guts of the solid BlackBerry I’m used to.
What takes some getting used to is the SureType Keyboard, which the BB executives explained was more “intuitive” than the old “predictable” type. It’s fine when it gets it right, but frustrating when it gives you options. It does learn over time though, and in the month we spent together it had memorized some combinations I use all the time. Apparently, it already has 35,000 most commonly used words in its database.
A brand-new feature is the Map Quest type directions: just type in an address and up comes a map on your screen. If you have a Bluetooth GPS, you can sync them together, so you can use your Pearl Address book. Handy.
One problem for the over 40 crowd will be the size of the keyboard. I had to put on my glasses to read it. While this doesn’t present a problem for their key demo, it took me a while to “memorize” the keyboard.
Note: For the first months, the Pearl will be available only from T-Mobile; it’s priced at $200 with a new two-year contract. That’s half the price of its rival, the Treo 700. My T-Mobile plan includes an extra $20 for unlimited data, which is a good option to consider.