If you've been reading CH for a while you know I'm rather fickle when it comes to mobile phones. I'm always looking for the right combination of form, features and usability. Well, there's a new phone du jour—the Blackberry Pearl. While the previous Blackberry form factors are destined to be tomorrow's kitsch (check out the slideshow), the Pearl follows a more classic, "candy bar" stye form without compromising the powerful email capabilities.
Beyond the perfect size, shape and weight a few things set the Pearl apart from its predecessors. Most importantly, the interface is now controlled by a rollerball placed front-and-center on the device. In addition to being usable by lefties and righties alike, it now lets you move the cursor left, right, up and down—a long overdue improvement over the original 2-way scroll wheel. But because it's a ball it allows for much faster scrolling than on other "joystick" or "donut" type controllers typically seen on today's phones. This is also the first Berry with a built in camera and they've included all of the picture phone functionality for sharing images and using them to customize the device. Lastly, it syncs with the Mac! Blackberry has helped PocketMac clean up their act and the new sync software is much more simple and reliable.
The Pearl uses Blackberry's TrueType keypad which only took a few days to get used to. It's laid out like a regular QWERTY keyboard but each button holds 2 letters. To use it just look for the button that has the letter you want and press it, the software figures out what word you want each time you enter a space. Beyond email and SMS, the Pearl also comes with an IM client that supports AIM, ICQ, MSN and Yahoo!.
If you want a Blackberry that doesn't make you look like a dork talking on a pocket calculator or just need an email device that fits in your jeans pocket, check out the Pearl. For now it's a T-Mobile USA exclusive and it's compatible with their MyFaves plans (which I just switched to and am also happy with so far).