The latest BlackBerry offering from Verizon, in the form of a re-tooled Pearl, may be the first time Verizon Wireless got a data device right. Read more for the first impressions from the first shipment of Pearls.
The Pearl, in a cast of many other devices…Buy a Pearl from Verizon Wireless
While RIM is touting this as the “Pearl”, same as the device released for T-Mobile over a year ago, most in the BlackBerry community call it the “Pearl 2”. And, that’s for good reason… the new BlackBerry significantly builds on the original Pearl. From built-in GPS to 3G broadband connectivity, the Pearl on CDMA is a much more advanced offering, and spec-wise, was worth the year-long wait.
Probably the most important thing Verizon Wireless did, was drop the pricing for data. At $45/month, it made no sense to have a data device on Verizon. You would be better off paying $15/month for a consumer EV-DO phone (a V CAST phone) and paying $30/month for data service on Sprint or AT&T (or even worse for Verizon, not paying for a Verizon phone at all).
The $30/month rate brings things back to the stratosphere of reality. Problem is, Sprint one-upped them, rolling GPS and Sprint TV into their $30/month plan for free. Verizon doesn’t do either.
Verizon does however offer their excellent VZ Navigator application for $10/month extra. It’s hard to say that VZ Navigator is worth a whole $10/month more, but we’d certainly pay a few dollars a month until TeleNav improves the Sprint Navigation software. VZ Navigator has been ported to RIM’s Java platform, and it appears to have made a flawless transition.
Verizon didn’t hinder the Pearl in any way we can tell, a welcomed change from what they do to their phones. The Pearl’s Media applications are all intact, as is the streaming video player. We successfully watched Live TV at no extra charge using Orb. Even the look-and-feel wasn’t touched significantly. Verizon added a theme that replicates the better parts of the notorious-and-hated Verizon UI, but that can easily be switched to the default RIM themes. Scary thing is, the Verizon theme actually was an improvement over RIM’s, more readable and easier on the eyes.
However, Verizon still hasn’t wrapped in all their consumer services. The Pearl lacks V CAST Video and V CAST Music. While no other smartphone currently has V CAST Video (despite V CAST being powered by Windows Media), V CAST Video has appeared on the Motorola Q9m. However, with the tech-savvy audience of BlackBerry, you’re not missing out.
The BlackBerry web browser works excellently at EV-DO speeds. We’re thrilled with the performance, and it actually starts to rival that of Apple’s iPhone in terms of getting access to information. While it can’t handle the full “grown up” internet as well as iPhone does, it can render all the pages, and the speed it does so is what one-ups it over similar devices.
We did run into some stumbling blocks, for example, Google Maps would not run on the device. Also, BlackBerry Maps, while included, is prohibited from accessing the device’s built-in GPS. We expect the former to be fixed by Google, and the latter to be brushed under the rug by Verizon.
Probably the largest disappointment we have with the Pearl, is the Pearl’s SureType keyboard. After a few days, it still pales to innovations like iPhone and HTC’s Touch Visual Keyboards. The predicative text is simply a slowdown, since it is difficult to make the frequent corrections needed. Worse, the multi-tap keys are hard to press, and slow to type on… even compared to a normal phone keypad. However, there are plenty of people that praise SureType, so we’re chalking it up largely to preference, rather than functionality. The good news is that RIM is working on upgrading the Curve for CDMA, so our largest complaint with the Pearl will be fixed… by the device meant for people that don’t like the Pearl’s keyboard.
Above all, the Pearl is a great device for Verizon Wireless. The new data plan is a step in the right direction, but still falls short of Sprint’s competing plan (and the same device). However, because “It’s the Network”, Verizon is hopeful that coverage will win the day in the price-point race. And, the good news in this, is that we’re not complaining about the device itself, a first for a Verizon phone from this review desk.
Pros: 3G, Fast, GPS-enabled… BlackBerry on CDMA done right.
Cons: No V CAST Video, More-expensive data plan.
Final Score: 5/5