Blackberry Pearl Flip review
We review the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 - a clam-shell smartphone that excels in messaging but is let down by a poor camera
Verdict: Small and cute, with all of BlackBerry's messaging know-how crammed in
Price: From free with contract or £230 SIM-free
Pros: Excellent QWERTY keyboard, push email, good browser, WiFi, 3.5mm audio jack plug
Cons: Poor-quality camera, no GPS
Design: Not the best-looking Pearl, but probably the easiest to use
Operating System: Blackberry 4.6
More Info: BlackBerry website
RIM seems to have been going all out to fit its BlackBerry products into just about every available phone niche lately, and with the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220, it's gone for the still popular clamshell market.
Sliders may be more fashionable these days, but for many the clamshell is the only phone style to have. Previous Pearls have been fizzy, bright young things, desperate to move the BlackBerry name out of the boardroom and into the handbag. But the Flip strikes a more confident tone, celebrating its business beginnings, while firmly looking ahead to the style-led future.
The BlackBerry Pearl Flip comes in a sensible gloss black (or red if you're feeling daring) and looks a little clunkier than previous Pearls, though it errs on the chic rather than the shoddy side. There's a 27mm x34mm (128 x 160 pixels) outer screen which fades into the casing until activated, when it displays an analogue clock with date, battery, signal, message and caller information. Above it is the two-megapixel camera lens flanked by LED photo light and an alert light to tell you when you have messages waiting.
On the sides are two programmable 'convenience keys' plus volume buttons, microSD card slot (none supplied but it will hold up to 16GB), USB port, 3.5mm headphone jack and a sound mute button.
Open it up and beneath the 240x320-pixel screen it's clear that style has taken a welcome back seat to practicality with the keyboard. Previous Pearls have tended to have cutely good-looking but unnecessarily small and fiddly buttons. The Flip is a different fish entirely. Here the keys are laid out QWERTY style with two letters per key, in old-school Blackberry SureType fashion. It takes a little bit of getting used to if it's your first Blackberry, but after a few minutes you'll get the hang of it and find that speedy texting is yours for the asking, either in multitap or predictive mode.
With just two megapixels, the camera clearly isn't intended as a selling point for the Flip, but it makes the most of what little it's got. Maximum picture resolution is just 1600 x 1200 pixels but it's a speedy launcher, taking just two seconds to start up and another two to take a pic, which makes it great for quick snaps – something many of the better specced camphones seem to forget.
Picture quality holds up well against similarly specced cameras though - they could perhaps be a little sharper, the colours could be a bit richer but they're okay for quick snaps. Video resolution drops the quality considerably, as you might expect, but with good light, and not too much movement, they're good enough for youTube.
The BlackBerry Pearl Flip's music player isn't bad at all. It can play all the most popular audio formats including MP3, AAC and WMA, plus it has a 12-bar graphic equaliser for optimising your sound. Even the supplied headphones are better than we expected, with a particularly full level of bass, though the 3.5mm headphone jack means you can upgrade them easily if you need to.
For video it will play MPEG4, WMV and H.263 formats but the low-ish res screen won't really show them to their best advantage.
There's no GPS on board though you have a choice of Blackberry and Google Maps for finding your way around. The Flip relies on cell site triangulation to find your position and accuracy can vary alarmingly depending on where you are (cities are better than the countryside, but it's still far from pinpoint accuracy). If you really need GPS however, you can hook up to a separate transmitter via Bluetooth.
The Pearl Flip has quad band GSM, so it will work in the US, but there's no 3G, so it's not so good for browsing on the move. Use the Wi-Fi connection to get a broadband connection however the browser is pretty good.
The Blackberry trackball lets you pan around pages with ease and you can zoom in with a single tap. The column view option is also useful since there's no option to view pages in landscape mode.
Other apps include Facebook and a selection of document viewers and battery life held up okay, giving us a good two days of moderate use, even with Wi-Fi switched on.
The Blackberry Flip squeezes all Blackberry's messaging know-how into a compact package that manages the trick of looking good and being highly practical.