BlackBerry Pearl 8100 Hands-On

The BlackBerry Pearl is for the ladies. It’s slim, sexy, and cool. That’s not to say that boys might like it, but the Pearl, like the Sidekick 3, is designed to break down barriers and include folks who might not think they need a smartphone into the CrackBerry fold. Like the SK3, it’s a fully-featured smartphone masquerading as a cool and stylish toy.

For lack of better terminology, you can categorize the Pearl as a gateway phone. It doesn’t have a QWERTY keyboard and the enterprise features of RIM’s operating system are well-hidden, ensuring that casual users can open the box and start emailing right away. The trackball is definitely an added bonus and allows for some very clever menu and icon navigation. It is also extremely light, about 3 ounces, and has a beautiful bright screen and 1.3-megapixel camera.

We love that the Pearl has a standard USB recharger and connectivity port. This allows you to drag and drop media to and from the device and recharge it via a standard port. It also supports music playback and BlackBerry maps. It can even grab your current coordinates when paired with a Bluetooth GPS device.

The interface is very smooth with most of the major applications appearing on the first screen when in default mode. Adding ringtones and backgrounds is as easy as selecting something from your MicroSD card and, as usual, personal and enterprise email connectivity is seamless.

The device comes with a charger, connection cable, and two headphones – one with a single earpiece and one for stereo audio.

If you’ve used BlackBerries in the past, the interface will be as familiar as an old pair of jeans. The predictive typing takes about five minutes to learn – it’s actually a trust issue because you have to convince yourself that typing a few random numbers will eventually give you the word you’re looking for – and it got excellent reception even in my dreaded basement where the Sidekick and most Nokia phones is reduced to a paperweight due to interference issues.

I gave the phone to the wife and she carried it to work where everyone – boys and girls included – went nuts. One of her co-workers carried it into a meeting of road warriors – the folks who are on travel 360 days out of the year – and they didn’t really get much work done. They all just played with the Pearl.

There are a few iconic phones that take us all by surprise: the StarTAC, the RAZR, and the Sidekicks, to name a few. Add the Pearl to this list because, although it doesn’t have a full keyboard or look like a blue robot liver, it brings mobile email and IM to the masses. Add in a heaping teaspoon-full of style and T-Mobile’s own advertising efforts and I feel you have a winner.

Product Page [Blackberry]