PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
News

BlackBerry Pearl earns praise from cell users

Alex L. Goldfayn
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

TiVo has evangelists. People go crazy over their digital video recorder because it changes the way they watch TV.

In the PC category, the Mac elicits a wildly passionate response from its legion of vocal fans.

And among digital music players, everyone knows the iPod rules the world.

Until recently, however, the cell phone category had no such champion of the people.

But today, people are raving about a little phone called the BlackBerry Pearl (www.blackberrypearl.com). Since its launch in September, it has become a hot seller. It's a half-inch thick and pretty much half screen and half keyboard. In between, there's an innovative little thumb trackball - that's the "pearl" - that navigates the screen and, when you push it down, makes a selection.

Like Prius owners and expectant mothers, users of the sleek, sexy, black-and-metallic BlackBerry Pearl share a common, unifying pride.

"How do you like your Pearl?" I asked a stranger at my coffee shop.

"Oh, I love it," he said. "I just got it, and I absolutely love it."

We talked for five minutes about favorite features and exchanged tips and tricks.

What inspires such enthusiasm in a gadget? It's design elegance (think of the TiVo's interface, for example), which to me means a simple and extremely effective functionality. But there's also style, which both the iPod and Pearl have in spades.

At some point for some machines, the combination of inherent attributes sets off a buzz among consumers. And sometimes, as with the Pearl, appreciation reaches a higher level of passionate, evangelistic response.

For those people, owning one of these devices also becomes a personal statement. Driving a Prius tells the world you care about the environment. Owning a Mac means you're all about creativity, not conformity. I just think the Pearl is a beautifully designed phone.

It is made by Waterloo, Ontario-based Research In Motion Ltd., which for nearly a decade has been manufacturing big, clunky, plastic BlackBerries.

Most of them have spacious, full keyboards for your thumbs and the legendary "always on" e-mail that has made them must-haves among on-the-go business users. They're hard and tough and pretty much indestructible.

But they're not really phones you're proud of pulling out at dinner. (When I used BlackBerry's full-size 8700c, it was so big that I had a hard time pulling it out of my pocket.)

But when RIM released the Pearl, I immediately was smitten.

It's a 3-ounce soap-bar-shaped phone that features a superbright 2.25-inch screen and a little 20-button keyboard. Each button has one or two letters assigned to it. As you type with your thumbs, the Pearl makes a best-guess attempt at which letter you really want to come up.

RIM calls this technology SureType. As you type each word, a list of options appear, and you can select the letter sequence or word you wanted to type. Like other BlackBerries, the Pearl "learns" the words you use, adding them to its database on the fly. Before long, it is guessing at nearly 100 percent.

What's it like to type on a tiny keyboard?

I'm 6 feet 6 inches tall, and my hands are better configured to palm a basketball than press tiny buttons on a 1-inch keyboard.

Still, I spell surprisingly accurately and quickly with the Pearl. In fact, there's not a noticeable difference between the time it takes to hammer out a quick e-mail between the Pearl and my many full-keyboard Palm Treos.

It keeps my contact list, calendar and task list too. The Pearl also has a digital camera built in and can play music and movies. This makes it the first BlackBerry to handle multimedia files.

The second BlackBerry to do so will be the full-size 8800, which became available through Cingular on Feb. 21. It has the full keyboard that many business users have come to love, but otherwise looks and feels like the Pearl, right down to the little trackball. It will retail for about $300 with a two-year contract.

For me, the key to the Pearl is its size.

The Pearl easily fits into a pocket, following a trend with wireless phones that effectively started with the Motorola's Razr: Sleek and thin is in. So are cameras and music and movie playing. The Pearl adds BlackBerry's e-mail functionality.

The downside: It's nowhere near as sturdy as the business-oriented BlackBerries. The Pearl is made of light plastic that scratches easily. I've dropped it exactly once, and the battery cover, along with the battery itself, tumbled dramatically away.

Luckily, I had painstakingly applied a stick-on protector from a company called ShieldZone (www.shieldzone.com). According to the company, their custom-cut protectors are made from the same material the military uses to protect helicopter blades. Obviously, the material is scratchproof, and I like it because it doesn't add bulk to my Pearl like a case would.

ShieldZone makes protectors for cell phones, MP3 players and watches.

For the Pearl, a full-body shield runs about $25, while a screen protector costs about $10. For an easy-to-scratch device like the Pearl (or, for that matter, the iPod), it's a must-have.

The BlackBerry Pearl is available from T-Mobile (about $150 with a two-year service plan) and Cingular (about $200 with a two-year service plan). On Amazon.com, prices are much less; it runs just $50 for T-Mobile and $25 for Cingular.

___

(Alex L. Goldfayn's book, "Going Digital," about all the things you can do with your digital photos and home movies, was published by HarperCollins. Visit www.TechnologyTailor.com for more information and the full text of more than three years of "My Tech" columns. Write to him at alex at technologytailor.com.)

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.