The BlackBerry Pearl 3G puts us in mind of a 9700 Bold that has been slimmed down and slipped into a narrower frame; gone is the spacious Qwerty. But we found that the reduced handset still manages to tick plenty of boxes.
What we like
We were big fans of the BlackBerry Bold 9700, so the fact that the Pearl 3G channels the same styling is definitely a plus-point.
We do mourn the absence of a full-on Qwerty keyboard, but that’s not to say that the little alphanumeric numberpad on the Pearl 3G is no good – quite the opposite. The nicely ridged buttons are satisfying to press, and they’re also nicely spaced so you’ll rarely hit the wrong button.
Email is where BlackBerry handsets traditionally excel, and the Pearl 3G is no exception. Setting up email accounts is super easy, and the inbox is surprisingly spacious given the fairly small screen.
We love the amalgamated inbox which can hold your emails from multiple accounts, direct messages from Twitter, Facebook and the like, as well as text- and media messages if you choose to set it to. This means you can just have the one mailbox item on your homescreen and use the space for other shortcuts.
It’s clear that RIM is aiming squarely at the consumer market with the Pearl 3G, which is why BlackBerry messenger is such an asset – trading instant messages back and forth is something the teenage market will certainly appreciate.
Although the media player isn’t particularly noteworthy, we do like having the media controls on the top of the handset, making it easy enough to play, pause and skip through tracks.
Similarly, the camera is a joy to use – with flash and autofocus it’s easy to take good quality pictures, making the 3.2-megapixel camera perfect for when you don’t have a point-and-shoot handy.
There’s not often much to say about call quality but on the Pearl 3G we were pleasantly surprised by how clear our calls were – both ends of the call noticed a marked difference.
What we don’t like
It’s not entirely clear how to lock the keys of the handset – in fact, we tried everything we could think of and ended up putting the phone into stand-by every time.
BlackBerry’s OS needs one big overhaul – luckily, RIM knows this and BlackBerry OS 6.0 will be out in a few months; it’s not clear if Pearl 3G owners will be able to upgrade their handset’s OS – if not, you’ll be stuck with the old, clunky browser (although you can get Opera Mini from the App World, which is much faster), that not-exactly-beautiful music player and the web-like menus presumably ‘til Kingdom come.
Those web-like menus are probably our biggest issue – scrolling through lines of small text trying to find the option you’re after gets old very quickly indeed.
BlackBerry’s App World is coming along, but we’d still like to see more good quality apps for less. Luckily, social networking is pretty much covered – there are great free apps out there, not least Facebook for BlackBerry and Twitter for BlackBerry.
The native maps app is rubbish – we’d recommend ignoring it completely and downloading Google Maps from the marketplace instead.
We liked the Pearl 3G a lot. That said, if you’re going to be doing any kind of lengthy typing on your handset, we’d probably point you in the direction of the BlackBerry Bold 9700, if only for its fabulous Qwerty keyboard.
But for anyone else, the BlackBerry Pearl 3G is a smart little phone, which could prove the perfect handset for many tech-savvy people who want a dash of the hardcore business BlackBerry with a dollop of playful day-off BlackBerry.