Introduction on How to Use the BlackBerry Pearl
Research in Motion’s Pearl line of BlackBerrys recently got a new edition with the release of the Pearl 9100, often referred to as the Pearl 3G. The Pearl line features slim devices with a compressed keyboard, trackball or trackpad, and a large screen. Even though it comes in a small package, the Pearl is a full-featured device with just about everything you could want in a phone. Using the BlackBerry Pearl isn’t much different than other BlackBerry devices, it runs on the 5.0 software, but there are a few hardware differences that you will have to get used to. While it may take some time, once you learn how to use the BlackBerry Pearl you’ll find that it is a fairly well-designed smartphone.
The trackball, or touchpad for the 9100 series, works just as you think it would. Roll your thumb over it in the direction that you want the cursor to go, and it responds quickly. The touchpad is well-built and I have never had a problem with any touchpad model, the trackball on the other hand, has some issues. The trackball starts off well, but since there is a little space between the trackball and the housing so the trackball can move, dirt and dust can accumulate under the trackball causing it to stop working. The trackball hardware can also fail, and generally does so after about a year. Luckily it is really easy to clean and replace a trackball, just be sure to hold on to a spare trackball in case the one you have breaks.
The biggest difference between the Pearl line of BlackBerry devices and other lines, is that the Pearls have a compressed QWERTY keyboard. With the keyboard being only five keys wide, each key corresponds to two different letters on the keyboard. For most typing, you will be using SureType technology where you press a key once, regardless of which of the two letters you want, and the device will present you with a list of possible words. The longer the word, the more likely it is that your desired word will appear. Simply scroll to the word you want and press enter. SureType works well unless the word you want is not in the dictionary.
The other typing method is called MultiTap. The device will default to MultiTap if you are entering in a password, but in all other instances you will have to change a setting to use MultiTap. Just like texting on an old phone, one press gives you the first letter, and two presses gives you the second. It isn’t that bad, except when you need to use the same letter twice in a row, since you have to wait for the cursor to advance before you continue typing.
The keyboard has always been the biggest drawback of the Pearl models, and one of the biggest reasons why people don’t know how to use the Pearl. I’m kind of disappointed that they didn’t change the design for the Pearl 3G. Once you get used to it, it is not as terrible as it is when you start, but until then typing will be a bit of a chore.
The Pearl offers a number of shortcuts to speed up your use of the device. For example you can double tap on the space bar to enter a period when you are typing or you can press the @ key to switch between column and page views in your browser. Take a look at all of the shortcuts here.
You can also assign the convenience key on the side of the phone to your most-used application. Just go into the Screen/Keyboard options and change the two convenience key options to the application of your choice. Be aware that some themes don’t let you change these keys.
Older Pearl devices had some severe memory issues. If fact, if you had old software on an 8100 and you filled up your memory, the device would start to delete your messages and call logs without your permission. Even once the deletion issue was corrected, memory use is still an issue on some Pearls.
Go into the “Options” application and choose “Status” from the menu. Next to “File Free,” you will see a number. When that number starts to get below 10 million, your device performance may start to suffer. If you see that your device is near that number, it’s time to start cleaning out your Pearl. Move songs, pictures and applications to a memory card and delete any old messages and emails. Staying on top of your memory issues will keep your Pearl performing well.
Email and messaging are done in the “Messaging” application, much like any other BlackBerry device. Both SMS and BlackBerry Messenger are on the 9100 without you having to do anything, while older versions of the Pearl will have to download BlackBerry Messenger from the App World. To set up email you will have to go to the “Setup Wizard” application, where it will walk you through the setup process. Both your emails and your messages will appear in a list under the “Messaging” application.
Like all BlackBerry devices, it’s easy to use your BlackBerry Pearl with your computer. Just install the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software, plug a cable between the port on your Pearl and your USB port on the computer. Then run the Desktop software and the connection is established. Make sure that you are running the “Backup” program at least once a month. If anything happens to your Pearl, you will be happy that you took a few seconds to ensure that your data is safe.