Research in Motion
The Pearl is actually a lot smaller in real life than it looks in the picture.
By Columnist
updated 9/7/2006 8:08:54 AM ET 2006-09-07T12:08:54

The Pearl is aptly named.  It is soon to be a precious commodity.

Pearl is RIM’s miniscule new BlackBerry messaging, camera, media player, Bluetooth, quad-band world phone with a truly novel pointing device.

After a few weeks of living with Pearl I can tell you that it’s very, very cool. 

It seems that while RIM was engaged in that highly publicized, lengthy, costly patent court battle, they also were quietly hard at work, designing an entirely new device. I have to tell you that they’ve done a terrific job.

Pearl is the smallest BlackBerry to date. It is barely 4.2 by 2 by 0.6 inches and weighs only 3.16 ounces. If you’re into comparisons: Pearl is thinner than a RAZR — shorter than a SLVR and lighter than either one!

Pearl is an 850/900/1800/1900 MHz GSM/GPRS.EDGE phone that will work nearly anywhere on the planet. It has a nice looking TFT color screen (240 by 260 pixels), 64MB of flash memory and a battery pack that’s said to be good for 3.5 hours of talk and up to 15 days of standby power. Standard features include a speakerphone, Bluetooth 2.0, voice-activated dialing plus MIDI and mp3 ring tones are supported.

There’s also a microSD card slot. Put as much as a 2GB card inside — plug in a set of stereo headphones and you can take a bunch of music (MP3, MIDI, AMR-NB, AAC) along with you.  Video too (MPEG4, H.263)!  In addition, Pearl comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera with flash and zoom on the back for those times when you need to take a low-resolution snapshot.

Aside from its size, Pearl’s best new feature is its revolutionary pointing device — a tiny, full-function trackball. Of course, it’s made to look like a little pearl. It’s easy to use and makes this device a snap to navigate.  Better than up, down, left and right buttons. All other manufacturers take note — a trackball seems to be the way to go on a small smartphone.

Research in Motion
The Pearl is skinny, small and lightweight.
The Pearl sports BlackBerry’s SureType keyboard technology.  That means the keyboard has only twenty keys.  Some keys represent two letters with a clever algorithm taking care of deciding which letter actually makes sense in the word you’re typing. I wish the buttons were a little larger, but I’ve always found that SureType works just as well as my typing on a 26-letter phone keyboard but with the added bonus of larger sized keys.

If you’ve ever used a “CrackBerry” you know that using one can become very addictive.  If you don’t know what BlackBerry mail is about — you probably don’t need one.  Overall, this new little design handled Blackberry mail with aplomb just like all the previous larger-sized designs.

Overall, there’s so much innovation squeezed inside this phone that I could go on almost forever.  The engineers at RIM have figured out how to make data fly on all their new BlackBerry models.  Web pages load faster on the Pearl, using what’s supposed to be older/slower EDGE technology than some handsets which use faster/expensive EV-DO technology.

Pearl will be sold by T-Mobile. They’ll be charging $199 for the phone with a two-year contract. There is a wide range of monthly plans which run anywhere from $29.95 for just e-mail service to $79.99 for unlimited e-mail and text messaging plus 1,500 voice minutes.

If you’re addicted to BlackBerry you’ve gotta try the Pearl.  If you want a state-of-the-art smartphone, run to T-Mobile.  And even if all you want is a wireless e-mail device, the Pearl was invented just for you.  Highly recommended.

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