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.

Perhaps the most notable difference between the Pearl 8220 and the 81xx series-besides the flip form factor-is its OS: BlackBerry handheld OS v4.6.0.151. (Previous Pearls ran on various versions of BlackBerry OS v4.2 and 4.3.)

We could write an entire review based on the new features available in BlackBerry OS v4.6, but here we'll focus only on the highlights. First of all, you can now receive HTML email, which means no more messy code scattered throughout messages. It also means that images within mail can be displayed, although you must choose to manually download pictures for each message. (HTML email is available in BlackBerry OS V4.5.)

BlackBerry OS v4.6 also lets you create new folders on your home icon screens for enhanced organisation. For example, you can now choose to create separate folders for different kinds of applications, ie, one for games, one for search and navigation apps, and another for social networking programs. This helps to reduce clutter on the icon screen and makes applications easier to locate.

Previous versions of the BlackBerry OS provided one central folder into which all messages - email, SMS and MMS - were delivered, making it difficult to fish through piles of mail to find one specific text or multimedia message. BlackBerry OS 4.6 offers a separate SMS/MMS-dedicated mailbox.

The BlackBerry OS for the Pearl 8220 has a cool new feature called Safe Mode, as well, which can be activated by holding the device's Escape key while it's rebooting. Safe Mode is meant to help identify and remove problem applications that may be negatively affecting the health of the device.

DataViz's Documents to Go ships with the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8220 Flip so users can download and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files - there are also tricks to make the free standard edition of Docs to Go create new documents. And an entirely new set of games comes along with the Pearl 8220, including Word Mole, Texas Hold'Em King 2, Sudoku, Klondike and Trooper Typing.

Much improved clock/alarm features let you customise the external time display-digital, analogue or flip-clock-style. With detailed alarm settings, you can disable the blinking LED coverage/message indicator during the evening and much more.

Instant messaging applications including BlackBerry Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, ICQ and AIM, all come preinstalled. A better - though still lacking - media player lets you manage music and playlists on the handset and not through a desktop-based application. The device features an external microSD memory slot that can accommodate media cards up to 16GB, and it ships with the new BlackBerry Media Sync software, which means you can sync non-DRM-protected iTunes tracks with the BlackBerry.

And the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8220 Flip even has a lanyard hook for all you fans of silly smartphones accessories. That's a lot to like. But on the flip side...

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