My first week with a Blackberry Pearl

It’s really Matt‘s fault: we went out for dinner at the Blog Business Summit and he let me play with his Blackberry Pearl phone. Having a Motorola RAZR v3c and thinking it was cool, I was spontaneously overtaken with a burst of gadget envy and suddenly felt my phone was passé and too old-tech for me.
But a few months passed until I really decided to leave the hated Verizon and trash my phone — and my wife’s — to switch to Cingular so I could get a Pearl of my own. This week, I did!
I’ve now spent far too many hours in the last few days playing with the phone, configuring it, configuring additional services, getting new applications, admiring its extraordinary engineering and design, and seeing just how many shortcomings and faults it — and the entire smartphone industry — still have. Let me list just a few…


First off, the Blackberry Pearl is theoretically not considered a “smartphone” by some folk because it’s not running a full operating system like Microsoft Windows for Mobile. Whatever. Compared to all the other phones I’ve seen on the market, the Pearl is darn capable, with its ability to run arbitrary Java apps, manage media, etc. Seems pretty smart to me. 🙂
Having figured out how to use apps like the open source utility Bitpim to interact with my phone book on previous cellphones, I figured that the modern, high-priced Pearl would have a far, far superior solution. After all, its ability to sync with your computer is one of the selling points of the device.
I was wrong.
Blackberry PearlI tried the sync applications on both the Mac and PC and am astonished at how poor they were. The Mac app, PocketMac, might now be distributed free from Research In Motion [makers of the Blackberry series], but it’s a crummy, quirky program that took me hours to get working even once. (tip: start the app, then plug in your phone to your Mac, then sync. Then quit the program as it won’t sync more than once in a row).
The PC application is a bit more reliable with synchronization, but you can’t actually do anything with the data once you get it on your computer unless you happen to have purchased an expensive contact manager. The entire featureset I got from the Windows program is the ability to backup the user data set en masse. I think. But can I open up a rudimentary window and edit my phone book? Amazingly, no.
Setting up Blackberry mail notification was a breeze, and the predictive typing that the Pearl uses so you can deal with the two-letters-per-key configuration is nothing short of amazing. Really, it’s dead on for just about every word I type and I can see that it won’t take long for me to be zipping along entering data.
Getting Google’s Gmail mobile app (available for free along with a pile of other apps at mobile.google.com) was a bit more complicated because of some security configuration issues. I document the problem and solution on my tech support blog: Google Gmail and the Blackberry Pearl. Not a great app, but it’s functional.
Google Calendar, however, is completely incompatible with the Pearl and any other mobile device. Google, this is braindead. It’s such a must-have feature for a Web-based calendar system that I’m still amazed Google hasn’t gotten this out the door. Even a read-only calendar review capability would be a good first step, but I’m completely shut out of my own calendar on the Pearl and the rumored third-party calendar sync apps aren’t yet shipping.
Google Maps is darn cool, but I can’t help wonder about the GPS geolocation that is built in to the phone (all cellphones report their position to the network). If Google Maps could just tap into that then you could automatically have it show you where you are every time you launch the app. That’d be trés cool!!
Finally, my friends at NewsGator let me sneak into the beta of their NewsGator Go! application, and y’know what? It’s pretty darn nice. A very intuitive and functional approach to keeping up on your RSS feeds while on the go, particularly given the constraints of the small screen and slow connectivity. When this is released, I’ll upgrade to a full commercial application.
One capability that I haven’t yet tested is whether I can use the Blackberry Pearl as an untethered Bluetooth modem with my Apple PowerBook. The Pearl uses the EDGE network, not the faster 3G network that Cingular’s rolling out in 2007, but if I’m just checking my email, I don’t feel like it’s that big a deal anyway. I have some scripts I’ve downloaded, but I haven’t actually done it for myself yet…
All in all, I’m delighted with the Pearl. It’s tiny, has a great screen, is quite capable of displaying video, playing music, surfing the Web, letting me keep up with my email, and much more, all at the same basic price as a regular cellphone (albeit with a considerably higher monthly charge: I’m paying about $80/month for the full Internet / Blackberry Internet package from Cingular).
I also really like that it’s bluetooth and also has a standard headphone jack, so I could actually use it with my Apple earbuds or even my Sennheiser noise-reducing headphones. iPod? Who needs one of those any more?
When Apple releases the iPhone will I consider replacing the Pearl with one? You bet. Or maybe I’ll just have two cellphones… 🙂


Pearl photograph courtesy of phonemag.com.

25 comments on “My first week with a Blackberry Pearl

  1. You know, I think the Perl is a maddeningly sexy phone, but I really do tend to pick usability over style.
    Interestingly enough, PocketMac and The Missing Sync appear to be the only two options for syncing my Windows Mobile SDA to my new MacBookPro, and neither of them have worked well.
    This is upsetting, because I’ve been planning to move all work related madness to my new laptop, and contact/calendar syncing is definitely part of said madness.

  2. I have had a Tmobile Sidekick since they first came out in 2002. I had a palm V with a modem before that.
    While the Sidekick has limitations (no open source software install) and perhaps not the best Phone functionality originally (I hardly use the phone though!), and how it started with no sync. They’ve fixed a lot of issues since 2002.
    The multi-tasking between email, web and IM is just fantastic. I use my Sidekick more than my Macbook. The keyboard is very easy to type on. People I IM with from my phone never notice a difference in speed. I update my blog via email or web. Almost all websites load fast and are fully usable.
    It’s a shame that Tmobile has marketed this amazing technology to the youngster crowd so strongly. It really can stand its ground against the other Smart phones.

  3. T-Mobile sells 80% of Blackberry’s nationwide and that’t the reason they get the new blackberry’s before any other companies. Also, the monthly service charge at T-Mobile is only $20.00 per month for unlimited Email, Browsing, and downloads (no limit on size); and, they will unlock the device for free for use with other sim based cellular companies. The GMAIL application(www.gmail.com/app) also performs correctly immediately upon downloading as do all other third party softwares. T-Mobile is the company for best results with Blackberry devices.

  4. I just got a Pearl recently and don’t own Microsoft Outlook so syncing with the Pearl has been a real nightmare, especially since I had all my data already in my Palm TX.
    Is anyone having any luck with any other PIM software out there?
    Also is there any alternative to GCalSync for Google Calendar? The 1.1.1 release is so buggy and I have 5 or 6 dupes of all my events now at different times because it can never get the time synchronization issue correct.

  5. Interesting reading this posting, I’ve had the same experiences with my Pearl. I was amazed at the lack of applications for synching contacts, calendars, etc.
    I’ve finally gotten GCalSync to work fairly well… I’ve found success by:
    1. Downloading the DST patch for my Pearl
    2. Adjusting the time + – in the GCalSync app until is finally uploaded from my Google calendar with the correct times
    3. Finally, I just upload to the Pearl from the calendar, do not download my data. It’s not a true sync, but better than nothing. One note: As the GCalSync program is buggy, you must go into the options and choose not to upload from your Pearl to the Calendar each time you sync as it will not remember that setting.
    A pain yes, but I have my info with the correct times in my Blackberry finally.
    Good luck!

  6. I am using a Blackberry Pearl 8100.
    I am unable to use “Mail by Google” Every time I try to log-in I get this error message: “Network Error: Your phone doesn’t support end-to-end secure connections (reason: Not HTTPS). In order to protect your data, Mail by Google cannot be used at this time.”
    Any ideas will be welcome.
    Kind regards,
    Arunjay.

  7. I am using a Blackberry Pearl 8100.
    I am unable to use “Mail by Google” Every time I try to log-in I get this error message: “Network Error: Your phone doesn’t support end-to-end secure connections (reason: Not HTTPS). In order to protect your data, Mail by Google cannot be used at this time.”
    Any ideas will be welcome.
    Kind regards,
    Arunjay.

  8. HELP! All of a sudden my internet browser icon dissapeared and i cannot log into gmail. When I click on the gmail envelope icon, I get the following error:
    Error starting gm_8100_v4_0_11: module ‘net_rim_ecmascript’ not found.
    thanks!!

  9. Not positive, Shari, but I have read here on the Internet that you can solve this problem by going to Options>advanced options>host routing table> menu key> register now.
    Try that, let us know if it works!

  10. I have a pearl and I’m very happy with it. If you are on a corporate network running MS Exchange and have Outlook installed it works perfectly. That’s really what it is desgined for. If any ove the above are not true you might be better off with a windows smartphone like a Blackjack.

  11. My wife and I just bought Pearls. I chose to get the unlimited e-mail/internet package w/ Cingular/ATT. We both use Powerbooks. I was instantly able to sync my pearl w/ the computer. She wasn’t. I spent two hours on the phone w/ RIM tech support on Monday, no help. Yesterday, I spoke with someone from their “enhanced team”, who handle problems that their basic tech support can’t handle. Phone call ended w/ “sorry we’ve tried everything”. I have verified that the problem is not the software on either of our computers, as i was able to sync my pearl on both computers. I also tried my sim card in her device to rule out that issue. Finally, we replaced the device thinking it was a lemon. Did not solve the problem. The only thing i’m left thinking at this point is that the problem is that she does not have a data package and as a result did not create a blackberry account, so her pin is not enabled. The “sync log” shows that the pin is not being accepted. Any thoughts? I have suggested this to RIM and Cingular and they both claim that this has nothing to do with anything.

  12. This blackberry pearl things sucks. I cant find anyone in the universe that can speak to to help me download attachments. My phone does not show an open attachment file …its crazy. I got it the same time a co-worker got it and to my luck it doesnt work…anyone out there have any advice?

  13. I have a BB Pearl and a MacBook Pro. I have had success with the Pocket Mac program. It was seamless, I sync my contacts, calendar & stickies. Pocket Mac also allows advance settings so you have some controlover what is synced. i use the Mac sotware for these applications.
    Disappointments in the Pearl are minor, you cannot create a default contacts list, e.g. I want only to see my SIM card contacts when I open my phone, not all of my contacts. you can drill down to do this but cannot set it up as a default. They could use a favorites function.
    Becaause I use a Mac I thought I’d like an Iphone, I added one to my account and after an hour of set up and on the phone with Apple advanced techs i was very disappointed in this device. I returned it that day. It is a kid’s toy not a business device and was designed for Microsoft users not Mac, very strange.

  14. Question…
    When I sync my Pearl to Outlook 2003 it deletes all calendar entries 1 month prior.
    Today is Sept. 5.
    Sync will delete Aug. 5 and all entries prior to Aug 5 in calendar. It will only keep 1 month of previous entries.
    Advance settings have ‘transfer all scheduled’ checked.
    I want to keep all calendar data.
    How do I stop this?

  15. Have had a pearl for a couple of months … on o2 uk contract. I was originally told that going online with the pear would be a synch without any RIM packages or monthly charges. After 15 phone calles and over an hour in store o2 told me they didnt know what to do, according to them i cannot connect the internet without a RIM account and a monthly charge however setting this up was way over thier heads and they didnt understand what or how any of it worked. Very dissapointed in the pearl, does nothing but sms and phone calls without GPRS connection and o2 havent a clue how to set one for me! Y release a product that gives sooo much hasstle in almost ever area …. its seems like a complete gamble weather they work or not and when they dont then no one seems to know what to do or who to contact!!!!
    anyone else had these problems?? or any soulutions would be great!
    Thanks SJK

  16. Bought the Pearl four days ago. Relatively pleased with everything except 1)syncing with Outlook, and 2)the awkward typing.
    On my old Ipac everything would sync perfectly with both USB and Bluetooth. With the Pearl, it syncs fine with USB, and though both my desktop and Pearl recognize each other using Bluetooth,…..it refuses to sync. Any techie suggestions to resolve this frustration?
    Other than that, a nice capable device, packed into a pretty tiny aesthetically pleasing package.

  17. I have the Blackberry Pearl Red (not sure which model # that is), and up until tonight, have not been able to figure out how to sync the damn thing to my outlook. However, after complaining to my geeky boyfriend, he opened the Blackberry Desktop Manager installed on my PC (Intellisync)–>Synchronize (open)–>configuration (tab)–>configure sync–> select program you want to sync. Press okay, back to main synchronize tab, and press “synchronize now”. Works perfect.

  18. Hiya
    I have a BlackBerry Pearl, bought in January, which I always used with Windows with no problems. I have just gone over to a Mac (fabulous thing :-)) but can only sync my calender on the Pearl with the Mac, nothing else. Very frustrating! I am using the free download of PocketMac – would using Missing Sync help? Any suggestions very gratefully received!
    (I’m tied into my current mobile contract for another year and so can’t go and buy an iphone yet!)
    Thanks 🙂

  19. Well I don’t have the pearl it came out two days after I got the 8900 series
    I love my blackberry, I get on the net no problem, I just have problems updating my java software, if anyone knows how to do this please contact me at densecloudz@gmail.com

  20. I had to return mine. Its just not the same. I know its cheaper. But I’d should have paid more to get the advanced pearl. I must say I do like the slick more compact styling.

  21. Have had a pearl for a couple of months … on o2 uk contract. I was originally told that going online with the pear would be a synch without any RIM packages or monthly charges. After 15 phone calles and over an hour in store o2 told me they didnt know what to do, according to them i cannot connect the internet without a RIM account and a monthly charge however setting this up was way over thier heads and they didnt understand what or how any of it worked. Very dissapointed in the pearl, does nothing but sms and phone calls without GPRS connection and o2 havent a clue how to set one for me! Y release a product that gives sooo much hasstle in almost ever area …. its seems like a complete gamble weather they work or not and when they dont then no one seems to know what to do or who to contact!!!!
    anyone else had these problems?? or any soulutions would be great!
    Thanks SJK
    SJK, I’m on O2 UK and have had no problems at all. You need a data package. Either unlimited data at �10-�15 per month dependant on your monthly package. Or pay as you download. I’ve had my Pearl for about 6 months and I can send and receive emails, browse the Internet, SMS and MMS no problems.
    Hope this helps,
    Jamie.

  22. I’ve had the Pearl for 4 days and have been surfing and texting like a made man. Last night I noticed when someone called me they heard 5 rings before the Pearl rang once. Then I was paged that I wasn’t recieving text messages. This morning, day 4, my phone deactivated itself! Sigh, I called Telus and they couldn’t reactivate my phone and offered me a replacement. So after 4 days I’m already replacing my Pearl for a new one. It seems to be a combination between a network problem and phone software problem. I also think that because I was surfing and downloading so much you really have to be careful about 3rd party software messing up this phone. But, all I downloaded was google maps and beyond 411 which have been downloaded by many. LOL, I hope this isn’t the begining of the exchange dance! Maybe I should’ve went with the motoQ.

  23. I just purchased the Blackberry Pearl yesterday, and I am trying to sync it with Microsoft Outlook, but when I go into the Configure Sync area, the only version of Outlook listed is Outlook Express. I have tried doing the “sync to” with that version, but none of my contacts from Outlook get sync’d to my Blackberry. Has anyone had this problem, and if so, did you find a workaround?

  24. To Catherine Chandler: Thank you for your steps. I had the same problem with syncing my BB Pearl to Outlook but have got no idea how to do it. Now, with your steps, I did it very well and it works great. Happy with it so far.

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