The Blackberry Pearl 9100 3G smartphone has reached New Zealand after being picked up by Vodafone, with a likely appeal for those who want a compact, candybar device that doesn’t compromise on functionality.
As you’d expect from the manufacturer Research in Motion, it is a sleek and well-built phone with a no-frills operating system designed for efficiency and productivity.
What sets this model apart from other Blackberrys is that it is the smallest produced at 108 x 50 x 13.3 mm and weighs 94 grams.
The trade-off of the pocket-sized, lightweight form factor is you don’t get the quality of experience you’d get on other Blackberrys or smartphones with big displays designed for video, multimedia and web browsing. Although small, the Pearl 9100’s screen is sufficiently bright and clear, though.
However, there aren’t many other sacrifices RIM has had to make to produce such a small device.
The main one is the keyboard – Blackberrys are traditionally known for having a full QWERTY keyboard, but the Pearl 9100 employs the SureType version. This keyboard has two letters and a number or symbol on each key, making it very tricky for the uninitiated to use.
You can either press the key once and use the touch-based trackpad to swipe between the two letters, or wait for the letter or word options to display before selecting one. Alternatively, you can press the key twice quickly to select the second letter option.
It’s easier if you use predictive text, but it took me about four days to gain the familiarity required to quickly enter words using SureType.
The glossy black device is comfortable to hold, thanks to the smooth metal rear that houses the 3.2MP camera with LED flash, while the look is chic with rubber and dark-chrome accents. Applications can be accessed by pressing the Blackberry key next to the trackpad, while media touch controls are on the top of the phone. There is also a 3.5 inch headphone jack and a microSD slot for cards of up to 2GB.
The Pearl 9100 performs well, running on a 624 MHz processor. This model uses Blackberry’s latest operating system – version 5.
It offers a full suite of connectivity options, including 3G GSM networking, GPRS, HSDPA, wi-fi, and bluetooth.
As with most Blackberrys, messaging capability is strong. There’s support for POP and IMAP email clients, multimedia messaging, with instant messaging and Blackberry’s Messenger app built in. Although other smartphones are offering increasingly sophisticated and fun applications for accessing social networking content and communication of all types, this Pearl provides the same functionality in a more basic way.
In the Messenger app, you can access social networking updates along with email, sms, chats and instant messages.
Applications on this model are all designed to enhance productivity – they include Dataviz’s Docs to Go suite for Word, Excel and Powerpoint files, and RIM’s Taska, Memopad, Maps version 5.0, voice dialling and a file viewer. There are also five pre-loaded games.
Web browsing on the 9100 is best described as a fiddly experience, with a tiny cursor that is used to scroll and click on links. Java is support when browsing, though.
Battery life is more than adequate – RIM rates the device for five and a half hours of 3G talk time or 13 days standby in 3G mode.
Call quality was always clear on this phone.
The $799 price for this model sits below the top smartphone tier locally, which is about $1000. Also, the price comes down to $249 or $349 on a Vodafone plan.
This Pearl does most of what Blackberrys should – the keyboard takes some getting used to, but once you become familiar with this, the device serves as the productivity aid you expect it to be.