As I was looking at the BlackBerry Pearl yesterday from T-Mobile, it suddenly dawned on me. The Trackball looks like a “pearl”. Not sure if this is really where the name came from, but at least it was a nice revelation for a moment or two. Then curiosity took over, so I did some searching. It seems that a CIO Magazine article already agrees with my conclusion and one of the BlackBerry weblogs had some thoughts on the topic as well including some predictions about what will the Cingular version of the BlakBerry 8100 be called. It seems that Cingluar will have a version out soon, but I haven’t seen any information about Verizon or Sprint having their versions in the near future.
Today is my last day with the BlackBerry Pearl (I will be moving to a new device tomorrow, that is right, a new device every 9 days, that is what the 81-day-experiment is about). So it is time to summarize my findings and impressions relating to the BlackBerry Pearl.
The BlackBerry Pearl sets new standards in smartphone usability
The idea of having a “mini-trackball” on a smartphone, so you can easily roll in all directions and make selections, works extremely well. But it is not just the idea, it is the quality of the implementation that makes the BlackBerry Pearl a unique device. The trackball has a special feel to it. It is almost “transparent” to the user. You don’t feel that you are rolling a trackball, you just feel that you are naturally navigating through the menus and screens.
They keys on the BlackBerry Pearl represent yet another high quality implementation. When pressing a key, you experience a little bit of tension (or resistance). In other words you clearly feel that you pressed a key and you can also hear a slight audible feedback. This slight resistance and feedback means that you are not likely to press keys by accident or unintentionally pressing the same key multiple times.
The user interface of the BlackBerry Pearl is yet another high quality and innovative implementation, starting with the very bright screen and sharp image (which ironically seems not to consume that much battery power—since I started to use the BlackBerry Pearl, I have never seen the low battery signal), and continuing with the application icons, the menus, the escape button, and menu button. The escape button and the menu button, combined with the Trackball, are the primary navigational tools of the BlackBerry Pearl.
How about functionality?
The BlackBerry Pearl seems to do everything that the other BlackBerry devices do and more (more in this case is referring to the camera, photos, video, music, voice recognition, maps, and you name it). In other words, it kept up with the BlackBerry tradition of being a business device that connects you well with the business world (including your Exchange and Lotus Notes e-mail and calendar data) while bringing to the table the other factors that makes it desirable as a slick phone and multi-media device that you can take with you to a social event.
And what if you are a Mac user?
Synchronizing the BlackBerry Pearl with your Mac will require third party software and it seems that you may need to wait a little for this software to become available. My friend Ralph who got the BlackBerry Pearl last Tuesday (the first day it was released) is waiting for Information Appliance Associates to release their upcoming version of PocketMac which can synchronize the BlackBerry Pearl to the Mac (see http://www.pocketmac.com ). So help is on the way!
So what is the conclusion? Should everyone get a BlackBerry Pearl?
The BlackBerry Pearl is an exciting product and it is likely to generate a much broader interest than any of the previous BlackBerry models. But is it for everyone? Probably not for the following audiences:
- Users who are looking for a “computing” device that can play the role of a laptop replacement (rather than just an elegant and capable smartphone).
- Users who have a lot of typing to do (while the SureType™ and multi-tap do a great job, nothing can beat the good old BlackBerry with the two thumbs racing together on that wide keyboard).
- Users who need faster internet access than what the EDGE network can offer, or who happen to be in areas where the GPRS/EDGE network signal is not ideal (many spots in San Francisco quality), or who are not willing or able to switch to T-Mobile (or Cingular later).
- Mac users who just don’t want to wait for Pocket Mac to become available.
- Finally, users who just don’t “click” with the BlackBerry Pearl. Usability and form factor are very subjective, so you won’t know whether the BlackBerry Pearl is for you until you take the test drive (put your hands on the device and see what it does for you).
Tomorrow, a new device, a new experience!