RIM has been trying to shake off its image as a purveyor of business handsets for boardroom executives and city workers for a while now, and the BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 is its latest move.
The form factor isn't a new one for BlackBerry, but the keyboard design is. Previous Pearls used a 20-key Qwerty layout with two letters per key. This one adopts a more conventional 12-key numeric layout.
That may come as a shock to BlackBerry aficionados, but anyone used to T9 text entry will feel instantly at home, especially as the SureType word completion is much better than other predictive text systems. It learns the words you commonly type, and recognises names from your address book.
The Pearl 3G is effectively a reduced-size version of the Bold 9700, and that means it's very powerful. It runs BlackBerry OS 5, has a 624MHz processor and an optical trackpad. There's HSDPA plus quad-band GSM, GPS and Bluetooth. This is also the first smartphone we've seen to support 802.11n, promising increased range over 802.11g.
The styling is attractive, with a glossy front and rubberised sides. The 360 x 400 screen is slightly smaller than that of its bigger brother, but it's clear and readable. Although pitched squarely as a consumer phone, the Pearl 3G also has strong enterprise credentials, with full corporate email and application access.
And the device is power efficient. After our 24-hour battery test, the battery meter still showed 60% remaining.
If the Pearl has a weak spot it's the comparatively thin selection of apps available on BlackBerry App World. But the Pearl 3G 9105 is a positive move for RIM and a largely successful one. It's a BlackBerry for a whole new audience, but with business appeal too. On speedy Telstra NextG for $59 per month, it will be a winner.