Hardware Reviews, Reviews

<3 Blackberry Pearl 8130

Blackberry Pearl 8130, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I, Marvin Acme, of sound mind and body…

Seriously though, the Pearl is by far the best phone I have ever had. For oh so many reasons. Not only that, but it is the best PDA I have ever had. Oh, btw, bonus points to the first person to recognize the reference and put it in the comments.

I have gone through about 5 other phones and 4 PDAs in my day (one device was counted on each list, for reasons I will go into shortly), and none of them are even remotely as awesome as the Pearl.

The way I have my phone configured, there are 8 apps on the main screen. Because I am so in love with (almost) all of them, I shall go through them one at a time.

  1. Messages – This includes texts, missed calls, voicemails, etc. This seems pretty standard, until you realize they way it is organized. Every other phone I have had separated incoming and outgoing texts. This makes trying to re-read a conversation REALLY frustrating, especially if someone sent two texts to the other’s one, thus unsyncing the messages. The Pearl, like the iPhone I am told, displays it all in one place. Not only that, but you can search those messages based on the person, showing only texts to or from them. This makes going back to old conversations even easier.
  2. Gmail – I have email access in my pocket at all times. Not only that, but it is gmail, which is awesome, especially since I have gmail configured to check all of my other email accounts. Setting up the Blackberry push system is frustrating, I have heard. Not to mention that outage recently. Because I am using the Gmail app, all I have to do is log into it using my Gmail account, and I am done. That is all the configuration necessary. I will say that the Gmail app isn’t perfect…yet. The only complaint I have is that I can’t apply labels to emails through the Blackberry app, which can be frustrating. Conveniently, I have Gmail setup to apply labels automatically to the majority of the mail I get everyday, so I can go ahead and archive it through the Pearl. I can search by labels, however, which is something, at least.
  3. BBRTM – Since Google is still lacking a to-do list, I use a website called RememberTheMilk.com. BBRTM is an app that accesses my RTM account, and on the main BBRTM screen, shows me the number of tasks I have due today, tomorrow, and all week. Each of these are clickable, and will take me to the detail of either that day, or each day of the week in a list, through which I can see the number of tasks I have due each day of the week. This app is a very early release. In fact, the first time I heard about it, there wasn’t even a downloadable version yet. Right now, the list can’t be modified through BBRTM, but RememberTheMilk does have a mobile version of the website, where tasks can be edited or marked as complete. I assume that sooner or later BBRTM will be fully functional, and I look forward to that day.
  4. Media Player – I have a 2Gb SD mini card in my phone with music and pictures on it. I got sick of my iPod, mostly because everyone and their mother has one. (Although I know two other people with Pearls, and a third who is planning on getting one!) I decided not to get another mp3 player, and bought the phone and a 160Gb portable hard drive, instead. I can put enough music on the SD card to keep me occupied, and I can carry my whole collection on the hard drive. The phone also has a real headphone jack, unlike many cell phones that require weird adapters, or the iPhone which doesn’t work with many sets of headphones because the casing gets in the way.
  5. Opera – Opera is my browser of choice, not only for my phone, but for my linux laptop, my windows desktop at work, and I even ran it on my Nintendo Wii, before I sold it. There is an Opera Mini and an Opera Mobile. I am using Mini, because I think Mobile costs money, and Mini is free. To tell you the truth, that is the only difference I know about. My absolute favorite feature of Opera (which, sadly, is only available in the beta versions of the windows and linux clients) is bookmark syncing. Create an Opera Link account, and every browser you use has the same links. In my opinion, Opera is much better than the pre-installed browser, too.
  6. Calendar – This is a pretty standard, run of the mill calendar, with several views: month, week, day, agenda. There is one thing that sets the Blackberry calendar apart from others however. Googlesync is the greatest app of them all, I think. It syncs any or all of my Google calendars to my phone. The last smartphone I had did not do this. I got it to work, but it required Microsoft .Net Framework, Microsoft ActiveSync, Microsoft Outlook, and some weird plugin. Needless to say, it was a royal pain.
  7. Address book – Nothing fancy here. I would like a good way to sync Google contacts, but along with the to-do list that Google is lacking, they don’t really have a good address book. Just the one that is built into Gmail; which I am unimpressed with.
  8. Google Talk – I realize that this makes me look like a Google snob, but I like that I can have my mail, calendar, to-do (even though this is not Google) all stored somewhere that I can always get to it. I can get to everything I “depend” on through any web browser, or through my phone. That is pretty cool to me. Anyway, unlike AIM, I have only a few people on my Google Talk contact list, so I don’t mind having an IM client that is always up, and in my pocket. I could see this becoming a problem eventually, but right now I dig it.

I have Google Maps installed on my phone, too. I was thinking about getting a GPS device not too long ago, but now I don’t need one. What is really cool about the Google Maps app is that it gives me a rough estimate of where I am in the world, using the phone in manner similar to that of GPS. Although, I was not in the estimated zone when I tried it. I assume this is not an issue in larger cities. There is a Facebook app too, but it doesn’t seem that useful. I can update my status, but I don’t use that feature. Adrian told me that there is an application for Macs that syncs contacts from Facebook. If the Facebook app for Blackberry did that, it would be pretty rad, but that is not available yet.

The only other smart phone I have used was an HTC 8125, and it was cool, but it ran Windows Mobile, which is really buggy, and clunky, and slow. It was also touchscreen based, which is neat, but means that operating the phone with only one hand is difficult. The Pearl was designed to be used with the trackball (the thing is actually called the pearl, which is how the phone got its name), which means it is easily used in one hand or two. The other concern I had with the phone before I bought it was the keyboard. As you might have guessed by how much of a fuss I made about text messages, I send a lot of them. The reason I upgraded was because I wanted a QWERTY keyboard. The Pearl has a pseudo QWERTY keyboard. It has the standard layout, but many of the keys have two letters that correspond to them. I thought this would be an issue, but the Pearl’s predictive text is really good. It remembers your preferences, as well as scans your phone, looking for words it doesn’t know, and adding them to the phone’s dictionary. This includes your address book, so you can even spell your friend’s names right.

Oh, one more thing. I have an SSH app on there too, for connecting to my computer remotely. w00t!


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