The BlackBerry Pearl smartphone isn't new, but the flip, or clamshell, design of the BlackBerry Pearl 8220 Flip certainly represents a big change for the leading business smartphone maker, RIM.

What we liked

The BlackBerry Pearl 8220 is a great looking device; there's no two ways about it. When closed, the sleek smartphone is only 99mm long, 48mm wide and 18mm thick - easily small enough to fit comfortably in a shirt or trouser pocket. Its external display is 128 x 160 pixels. When opened, the flip Pearl is roughly 180mm long and a bit thinner. It weighs just 100g.

The BlackBerry Pearl 8220 also features a larger internal screen than previous Pearls; at 240 x 320 pixels, the Pearl 8220 display is exactly the same size as the screen on the BlackBerry Curve 83xx, but it's rotated 90 degrees. When closed, the Pearl 8220 is shorter than its predecessor Pearls, but it's also slightly thicker. Still, somehow it seems sleeker.

The device, designed to sit steadily in the palm of your hand when opened and comfortably cradle your face when in use, delivers on both accounts. The BlackBerry Pearl 8220's volume and mute buttons are located high up on the right and left sides of the device, respectively, and they're easy to access while the phone's in use via thumb and middle finger. We found the volume levels to be average compared with existing BlackBerry devices, and call quality over both EDGE and Wi-Fi is good, but not great.

The new BlackBerry Pearl 8220 also has an LED coverage/message indicator like all its elder BlackBerry brethren; however the device's clever design has a circular LED positioned externally alongside two similar-sized circles that are the camera lens and flash. All three sit just horizontally above the outer display when the device is closed.

One of the BlackBerry Pearl 8220's coolest and most innovative features: it lets you display and preview new messages and status information on the external screen when it's closed. This does away with the need to constantly open the phone to check for messages. It also reduces unnecessary wear-and-tear on the flip hinge.

The up/down volume buttons scroll through new messages when the Pearl is closed. And the programmable "convenience keys" on each side of the device work to light the external display when it fades so you can check the time or device status without ever having to open the Pearl. (Both buttons can be customised by the user to launch various applications when the device is open.)

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