What’s this? A Blackberry without a QWERTY keyboard, beefy design, and extensive list of business applications?
The Blackberry Pearl 3G certainly looks a little odd when compared to the remainder of RIM’s consumer mobile lineup. Sharing few of the same design features – a small tracking button is all that links it to other Blackberry models – and sporting a revised version of Blackberry OS, this consumer-focused mobile phone barely feels like a RIM device at all.
And that’s because it isn’t, at least not in the traditional sense. Aiming to break the ‘business and QWERTY’ stereotype and take control of the consumer mobile phone market, RIM have designed the Blackberry Pearl 3G with a significantly weaker focus on business usability. The tactile keyboard has been replaced with a standard button layout; the control ball with a button, and the chunky design with something noticeably more pocket-friendly.
This result in a phone that’s refreshingly different. Despite sporting a similar version of Blackberry OS, the Pearl 3G feels like it came from an entirely different manufacturer. Browsing through the phone’s menu is more simple than on other Blackberry models, and placing calls is a far quicker process.
If there’s a fair division to be made, it’s that the Pearl 3G is the start of RIM’s consumer mobile phone efforts. The Blackberry lineup dominates the business world, beating out competition from Apple and HTC due to its tactile keyboard inclusion and email-friendly software. While the Curve and Bold make email a breeze, the Pearl 3G makes calling simple.
The Pearl 3G‘s design is sure to start a debate. We’re torn over whether it’s modern or outdated, believing its numeric button layout to be a product of days-gone-by and its plastic facade a little garish. But it’s still a decidedly modern phone – the bundled operating system is smooth and usable, while the web browser is one of the best out there.
Yet the Pearl 3G still feels like an older phone. It’s stylish and compact, but at the same time it fails to live up to our smartphone expectations. Checking email is a breeze and making calls is simple, though it feels as if it’s trapped between the expectations of business users and those of consumers. The 360×400 pixel display is horribly outdated when placed next to touchscreen phones, yet it doesn’t feel outdated when paired with Blackberry OS.
All in all, the Blackberry Pearl 3G is an unusual mix of classical design and modern features. It boasts one of the best web browsers on any Blackberry, yet its small screen limits its abilities as an internet-based phone. Its text input system is frustratingly difficult, despite it belonging to a lineup renowned for simple typing and excellent email support.
The Pearl 3G feels like the mobile world’s ‘third place’ – a device that bridges the gap between business and pleasure while ultimately failing to excel at either. It’s an interesting piece of tech and we’re quite fond of it, but it’s a difficult phone to recommend.