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BlackBerry Pearl 8100: The BlackBerry experience -- Part 1

Crave's Andrew Lim hasn't been the biggest of BlackBerry fans, but the new Pearl has got him rather excited. Will he convert to the BlackBerry side? He tested it to find out...

When I first heard that BlackBerry had made a smaller, more pocket-friendly handset, I will confess to mild excitement. Until then I'd never warmed to the whole BlackBerry thing, having never felt the need to check email obsessively in public places.

The truth is I don't really want work to be able to contact me every second of the day, and I wasn't particularly keen on the chunkiness of the handsets or their relative lack of features. If a phone is so big it can't fit in my pocket then I expect it to perform wonders. The BlackBerry has seemed like a one-trick pony -- aside from instant email access, I never quite saw the appeal.

Times are changing, however, and BlackBerry's latest offering, the alluringly named RIM BlackBerry 8100 Pearl, is not only small but has some previously unseen features to boot -- there's a 1.3-megapixel camera, an expandable microSD slot and a pearl-like trackball that lets you navigate through the menu. Could this device be the one that would turn me into a fully fledged BlackBerry addict?

Opening the box covered in pictures with people cycling, wearing business suits and having fun with their families felt promising. And at first sight the Pearl itself was attractive, with a glossy, sleek casing, which made me feel it wasn't all about titans doing business with lead-pipe cruelty.

It feels more like a mobile phone than any other BlackBerry to date. I was a little scared of the SureType keypad with its Qwerty layout and two-letter-per-key system, but I turned it on nonetheless.

A phone like this needs to be lived with, so I'll play with it for a while and let you know if I've become converted to the BlackBerry experience. Check back for my next installment where I'll give you the lowdown on the Pearl's usability and performance. -Andrew Lim

Update: We now have a full review of the BlackBerry Pearl 8100 live in our Reviews channel.