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BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 review: BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105

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The Good Flat, responsive trackpad; small size; good social-networking apps with more available from the BlackBerry App World; integrated email inbox; high-resolution screen; decent camera; dedicated music keys.

The Bad BlackBerry OS is looking dated; app store is pricy and offers less choice than competitors; we miss the Qwerty keyboard; Web browser doesn't impress; small screen.

The Bottom Line The Pearl 3G 9105 does exactly what it promises, offering all the features of a top-of-the-line BlackBerry in a small, candybar case. But BlackBerry devices are all about email and messaging, so we missed the full Qwerty keyboard of the Pearl 3G's siblings

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.3 Overall

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Touchscreens and Qwerty keyboards are the flavour of the moment when it comes to smart phones, and it's no wonder -- they give you big screens to surf on, and make it easy to bash out Twitter and Facebook messages. But RIM is bucking the trend with the BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105, its first phone with a traditional alphanumeric keypad.

Prices for the Pearl 3G have yet to be announced, but we expect it will be free on a £20-per-month, 24-month contract.

Qwerty gets squished
Previous BlackBerry Pearl phones had a unique, compact Qwerty keyboard with two letters on each button. This will still be the case in the US, but, in the UK, the Pearl 3G has only an alphanumeric keypad, like you'd find on any typical candybar phone. The keys sit in a wavy configuration, but they're well spaced out and easy to press. Overall, the Pearl 3G's keypad is fine.

The alphanumeric keypad enables the Pearl 3G to ram all the usual BlackBerry goodness into a smaller case

Whereas most feature phones use the T9 predictive-text system, the Pearl 3G uses RIM's own SureType algorithm. We don't think you'll notice much of a difference between T9 and SureType.

If you're an insanely good texter, and don't want to switch to a Qwerty phone, the Pearl 3G could be what you're looking for. But, if you want to take advantage of the emailing power that BlackBerry devices are famous for, the full Qwerty keyboard on a phone like the top-of-the-range BlackBerry Bold 9700 just can't be beat.

Wonderfully wireless
That's not to say that the Pearl 3G is lacking in other departments compared to the 9700. It has every wireless waveform you could ask for, including the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi standard. It also has 3G connectivity, which less expensive BlackBerry handsets, like the Curve 8520, lack. There's Bluetooth on-board too, and GPS for use with Google Maps and location-aware apps.

The Pearl 3G makes for a good music phone, thanks to media controls on the top and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the side

The Pearl 3G takes full advantage of all that connectivity, with an all-in-one inbox that pulls in up to ten email accounts, your Facebook updates and your tweets. There are also separate Facebook and Twitter apps, as well as plenty of others, and we found that they made good use of the limited real estate on the Pearl 3G's 57mm (2.24-inch) screen.

You won't find as many apps in the BlackBerry App World as you will in the iPhone or Android app stores, and paid apps tend to be more expensive, but at least what's in there is usually well designed. The BlackBerry store also has an odd quirk -- it displays prices in dollars until you've logged into your UK PayPal account for the first time, and the prices in sterling are based on the US prices, so they'll fluctuate with the exchange rate. That's just not cricket.

Straight-up surfing on the small screen isn't as much fun as using the apps, although the display's excellent resolution helps a great deal. The surfing experience is better than that you'd get on a typical phone with a small screen and no trackpad, but it's worse than on a Webmeister like the iPhone

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