As much as I've tried to use Blackberry alternatives over the past few years, I am now a Blackberry Pearl user on Cingular. Previously I've defended not using a Blackberry because it makes it look like you're talking into a pocket calculator (I still think that, by the way, about the non-Pearl form factor Blackberrys) and because a lot of my mobile e-mail interaction in the past has been simply cleaning out my inbox. However, I now find myself needing to be able to send responses that extend beyond the abilities of T9 text input.
Cingular provides an unlimited Blackberry plan aimed at consumers for $29.99 per month, which is $10 more than the unlimited MediaNET plan that also includes 300 SMS messages -- the net cost effect for my changing to Blackberry is $10 per month in additional data charges + $4.99 per month for the 200 SMS message package for a total of $15 per month. A lot of the people that I used to interact with via SMS have Blackberries, so I may drop the SMS as we start doing pin-to-pin communication, but it's going to take me a few months to figure out the best option.
The Pearl is an impressive device and from a form factor perspective it is not any larger than my 2125 and is much thinner with a better camera and a bigger screen. I had no problem setting up the BIS service with Cingular (actually did it on the phone rather than their site), but I have a word of caution: if you purchase a Pearl (or Blackberry for that matter) on Craigslist, eBay, etc., you need to ensure that the PIN has not been previously registered or you'll wind up spending a bunch of time with RIM support to try and get a new PIN.
A few gripes about the Pearl:
- No HSDPA (i.e., not 3G)
- No wifi
- No software reset (rectify this with SoftReset, which you can find here along with some other cool software -- donate if you use it)
- Relatively low megapixel camera (I'd like to see it 3MP+, but that's just me)
I don't gripe about SureType because I've been using T9 for so long that I don't feel like SureType is too much of a departure from a QWERTY keyboard; I think you either love (or learn to love) SureType or you hate it. Bear in mind that you'll not currently find a phone with full keyboard capabilities that has the same form factor as the Pearl.
In trying to determine the optimal configuration for Gmail, here's what I came up with:
- Use Gmail's automatic forwarding feature to send a copy of each e-mail to my BIS address
- Use the BIS filters to ensure that any mail sent from my Gmail address is not sent back to the device (this ensures that e-mail replies are not sent back to the Pearl)
- Use BIS settings for mail sent from my BIS address to look as if it was sent via my Gmail address (this ensures that the reply-to and sent from addresses are my Gmail address, which keeps my BIS address out of circulation)
Although the method described above still requires me to access Gmail to mark items as read, etc. it's pretty effective in pushing e-mail to the Pearl in real time.
Speaking of Gmail, Google has an amazing software suite available for the Pearl. Although I still get a network access challenge for their apps from the phone, what I love is that the Gmail, Google Search, Maps, and News show up as real applications on the Pearl as opposed to having to go to the MIDlet Manager on the 2125.
Overall I'm pretty happy with the phone. More to come I'm sure.