In addition to an attachment viewer that opens popular file formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, GIF, and more, the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 also comes preloaded with DataViz Documents To Go, so you can now edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files as well. Other PIM applications on the smartphone include a Calendar, a task list, a memo pad, a voice recorder, a calculator, and more.
Voice features on the Pearl Flip include quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is limited only by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts) with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home addresses, job title, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo to a contact as well a group category--business or personal--or one of 32 polyphonic ringtones.
The Pearl Flip supports T-Mobile's MyFaves service, giving you unlimited calls to five contacts, regardless of carrier. Individual plans for MyFaves start at $29.99 a month. You also get Bluetooth 2.0 with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth wireless headsets, hands-free kits, and dial-up networking.
As with the company's other Pearl models, RIM can't seem to offer both Wi-Fi and GPS, rather one or the other. In the case of the Flip, you get Wi-Fi (802.11b/g with UMA support), which we'll take for a couple of reasons. First, it's compatible with T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home service, which lets you make and receive calls via wireless networks. The benefit of this is that calls made via Wi-Fi will not be deducted from your cellular plan, meaning you get unlimited calls as long as you're within range of the hot spot. However, you do need a HotSpot@Home plan, which costs $9.99 per month on top of an existing T-Mobile plan. There is also a family plan that costs $19.99 a month and includes up to five cell phones.
Second, the smartphone isn't 3G-capable and Wi-Fi provides a better alternative to surfing the Web on EDGE. Now, in the past, the BlackBerry browser has always been a bit clunky and archaic compared with its competitors, but it has come a long way. The Pearl Flip 8220 features a full HTML Web browser and supports streaming video, including YouTube clips. You can choose from various views, such as Page View or Column View, and there's an onscreen cursor that you can move in any direction and place on any part of the page where you can click a link.
There are plenty of other entertainment options on the Pearl Flip. The built-in media player can play various music and video formats, including MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, and MIDI music files, and MPEG4, WMV, and H.263 video clips. There's a search function, playlist creation, shuffle and repeat, and you get a full-screen mode for video playback. The included software CD also contains a copy of Roxio Easy Media Creator, so you can create MP3s from CDs and add audio tags. There's a BlackBerry Media Sync application so you can synchronize your iTunes library with your BlackBerry. There's 128MB of flash memory onboard, but we'd load multimedia files on a microSD/SDHC card to conserve storage. The expansion slot can accept up to 16GB cards.
The Pearl Flip comes with a 2-megapixel camera with flash, 5x zoom, and video recording. For still images, you have your choice of three picture sizes and three picture qualities. Once done, you can send your media via e-mail or multimedia message, set them as your background image, or upload it to Facebook. In addition to the flash, there are white balance settings and you can add a couple of color effects. In video mode, you only get three color effects and two video formats (normal and MMS).
Picture quality was OK. The pictures were sharp with clearly defined objects and good contrast, but the colors looked a bit flat and gray. Video quality wasn't the greatest. While we could make out the objects in the frame, the picture was very pixelated.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 using T-Mobile service and call quality was good. We enjoyed clear audio with minimal background noise or voice distortion and plenty of volume. We also had no problem using an airline's voice-automated response system. On the other end, friends reported good sound quality and even said they couldn't tell we were using a cell phone. Speakerphone quality was OK, but there was some slight hissing in the background. We were able to pair the Pearl Flip with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
General performance felt snappy. The smartphone was responsive in day-to-day use with minimal performance delays. We didn't experience any system crashes during our review period. Web browsing was admittedly a bit pokey using T-Mobile's EDGE network. The Pearl Flip definitely isn't the smartphone for heavy Web browsing, but it's suitable for casual browsing. The Pearl Flip also had no problem finding and connecting to our Wi-Fi network. Music playback sounded fairly decent through the phone's speaker; we would have liked a touch more bass, but songs didn't sound as tinny as some of the other smartphones we've tested. We watched several videos, including a couple from YouTube, and while images and sound were always synchronized, the picture was pretty pixelated.
The RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 has a 900mAh lithium ion battery and has a rated talk time of 4 hours and up to 14 days of standby time. The Pearl Flip blasted the rated talk time out of the water in our battery drain tests with a total of 7 hours on a single charge.