February 7, 2007

BlackBerry Pearl

When I picked up my first BlackBerry a little over a year ago I was impressed with its functionality. Here was a device that made sending and receiving emails easier then making a call or sending an SMS. Old BlackBerry devices delivered lots of function but little form. The screens were dim and the devices big - a bulge in your pocket. Fast-forward 12 months and the BlackBerry has emerged from the shadows of its enterprise past and now competes with Sony Ericsson and Nokia as a viable consumer oriented smart-phone. In my opinion there is nothing even close in terms of performance and useful functionality.

Research in Motions (RIM) latest phone is the BlackBerry 8100 Pearl. The Pearl is the first BlackBerry to offer many new features including a 1.3 Megapixel camera and multimedia capabilities. But what I love about it most is its size. You have to see it and hold it to believe it. The Pearl weighs in at 89 grams and is about 10cm long and is less than 1.5cm thick. And you get all the great messaging capabilities of all other BlackBerry's including its bigger 3G enabled cousin the 8707.

To achieve this size reduction RIM had to re-invent their traditional side mounted scroll wheel. The result is a 'pearl' sized trackball in the centre of the phone. Getting used to this new navigation tool was easy and within 5 minutes I was familiar with the 'pearl'.

The Pearl has a reduced keyboard and uses RIM's award winning SureType technology. It's kind of like predictive text on steroids and combines a traditional phone number key layout with a familiar computer-style QWERTY letter layout that is designed to provide a comfortable typing and dialling experience. SureType works well, and is complemented by a solid keypad that is great to use and has a nice tactile feel.

RIM has included 64Mb of on-board memory (enough for around 80 high resolution images) but has also added a MicroSD media card so you can extend Pearls capabilities. RIM has also included software that lets you sync information to your PC. If you are using Mac you'll need PocketMac which is now also included as standard.

The Pearl delivers great voice quality and now supports polyphonic, MP3 and MIDI ring tones. It also has intuitive call management features such as smart dialing and speed dialing. Pearl’s speakerphone is the best I’ve ever used and Bluetooth allows for easy to connection to the ever-growing universe of peripherals including hands-free headsets, car kits and other Bluetooth peripherals such as a GPS receivers.

Vodafone are the first Australian carrier to offer the Pearl ($699). I think they’ve got a winner on their hands. It’s no surprise RIM’s share price has risen over 30% since the launch of this little wonder.