RIM Targets Consumer Market With BlackBerry Pearl

Research In Motion (RIM), producer of the widely used BlackBerry handheld device, will soon release its newest offering, the BlackBerry Pearl. The Waterloo, Ontario-based firm is targeting the vast consumer market—and veering away from its traditional focus on business users—with such new features as a 1.3-megapixel digital camera, a memory-card port and a music player that can be used while performing other functions, The New York Times reports.

The new Pearl will initially be available exclusively through T-Mobile, and it will go for $200 with a two-year service agreement, according to the Times. T-Mobile currently offers 1,000 minutes of talk time and unlimited Web access for $70 a month, the Times reports.

BlackBerry Pearl
BlackBerry Pearl

The Pearl gets its name from the dime-sized, glowing ball positioned just below its display, which is used to navigate the various functions like a mini-mouse, according to the Times. The ball can be used to move left and right—not just up and down—and users need only depress it for various lengths of time to perform different functions, the Times reports.

BlackBerrys have become an essential tool for corporate users in recent years, due largely to their “push” e-mail functionality, or the ability to receive and show electronic messages the moment they arrive, as well as the fact that they wirelessly connect to work e-mail accounts so changes made via the handheld carry over to PCs. Consumer users have been slower to jump on the BlackBerry bandwagon, as the handhelds have tended to contain fewer bells and whistles and were less “chic” than phones offered by firms like Motorola and Palm.

RIM a couple of years ago tried its hand in the consumer space with the BlackBerry 7100, and it cut down the average BlackBerry size by squeezing two letters onto its 14, easy-to-click keys, but its reception was less than noteworthy, according to the Times. Since the buttons each had two characters, the BlackBerry 7100 also came preinstalled with a software called SureType, which helps to form words from the jumble of letters that appear when a user types the first few letters of a word, the Times reports. For instance, a person looking to type the word “get” would need to press the GH, ER and TY buttons, but that combination could also be used to type “hey.” In such instances, multiple word options appear below the word in question, according to the Times. SureType works to determine the appropriate words, and it even remembers specific word combinations over time, the Times reports.

The Pearl uses a version of the SureType keyboard software, and the Times identifies it as one of the device’s “weak spots.” Its meager 3.5-hour battery life for talk time was also cited by the Times as one of its weaknesses.

Among the phone’s strengths the Times mentions are its appearance and size—it’s shiny black and chrome and “incredibly tiny” at 4.2 by 2 by 0.6 inches—its Bluetooth connectivity and the fact that it operates on a GSM phone network, meaning it can function overseas. The BlackBerry Pearl has a 240-by-260-pixel color screen that also functions as a flashlight, a speakerphone, voice-dialing capabilities, movie playback, and built-in AOL, Yahoo, MSN and ICQ instant messaging, according to the Times. Users can even read PDF and PowerPoint files, as well as make changes to spreadsheets and documents, using the Pearl, the Times reports.

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