While this might come as a bit of a shock to some, there is a little known country just north of the good ‘ole US of A that just so happens to be home to the World’s second largest smartphone manufacturer. That country is of course Canada and the manufacturer is RIM. It used to be the case that BlackBerry fans in the US got the latest BlackBerry devices before Canada, but in recent times it seems that Canada has launched RIM’s latest devices long before its neighbors to the South — the exception to this being the Storm. Canadian carriers stuck it to the Americans once again however, when Bell was the first carrier to release the CDMA Pearl Flip 8230. Sure, a few hiccups six days after launch due to buggy software killed off a lot of the excitement, but thankfully for RIM, TELUS launched the Pearl Flip 11 days after Bell, a launch that went off without a hitch.
Now back in October we reviewed the GSM version of the Pearl Flip (the 8220) and found it to be a pretty decent device considering its affordability. However, we couldn’t help but feel let down by the build quality which made the device feel extremely cheap, and the ridiculously pixelated display. So does the CDMA Pearl Flip offer any notable improvements over its GSM cousin? Hit the jump to find out.
The Pearl Flip comes in the standard, old school BlackBerry box that has been around forever. Inside the box is a 900 mAh battery (the same C-M2 battery that all others Pearls come with), a microUSB cable, stereo headset, travel charger, the standard new phone papers and installation CD and of course the device itself. An 8GB microSDHC card came loaded inside the device, though there is no mention of this on the box or on the TELUS website.
Our Pearl Flip was running OS 126.96.36.199, the latest official OS. We’re not going to get too heavy into OS related details in this review because we’ve already covered OS 4.6.x to death and there are no surprises here. In case you need a picture of what things look like in your head, just think of what’s running on the Bold and Curve 8900 and that’s exactly what you’ve got on a smaller scale. In terms of memory, the Pearl Flip has 128MB ROM / 128MB RAM. In terms of free memory, we averaged around 62MB after a battery pull.
As mentioned before, we were really let down with the GSM Pearl Flip and its poor build quality which made the device feel more like a working prototype than a retail model. Unfortunately, the CDMA Pearl Flip does not offer any improvement in this department. The build quality is not so bad that it will shatter into a thousand pieces if dropped a short distance, but compared to the rest of RIMs offerings — old and new alike — it’s probably the most cheap feeling device ever to bear the BlackBerry name. One part of the phone in particular we feel we have to single out is the battery cover. It honestly has to be the cheapest battery cover we’ve ever seen on a phone. It comes in at under 1mm thick and is not big enough to remain snugly in place — so much so that you can feel it move when typing.
Since we mentioned typing, we have to say that the keyboard has definitely grown on us. The keys are set up in a wave pattern and each key has a minute ridge on it to break up the monotony of typing on a flat key. Guitar-like frets separate each row of keys like they do on the Bold. They’re nearly flush with the keys, but they’re raised ever so slightly so as to make typing without looking a breeze. Of course being a SureType phone, strange typos are often made which make typing without looking a rather foolish move unless one doesn’t care about making typos.
The 2.4″ QVGA internal display on the GSM Pearl Flip sorely disappointed us but we’re pleased to report that the display on our 8230 was much more vibrant, crisp and colorful. It’s not better than anything else out there with the same resolution, but it does its job and it does it admirably well. As for the 1.6″ external display, we must confess that we don’t like it all that much. It does make things pretty simple by displaying messages without making one flip open the phone but the screen is so tiny and so dim that unless you’re in a pretty dark environment, it has a tendency to get very washed out. If you do find yourself in a dark environment by the way, the Pearl Flip does feature a 2.0 megapixel camera with flash. The pictures it takes are nothing to write home about but it will serve most people fine for the occasional candid.
As was long expected, the CDMA Pearl Flips does not have the WiFi but it does have GPS. If this were a more high-end device we’d do the typical bitching and groaning that so irks some readers… But alas, it’s a lower-end device meaning that yes, while it really, really, really does suck that users will be forced to pay data roaming fees while out of the country, at least the GPS is unlocked and doesn’t require a $10 per month subscription to TELUS Navigator, right?
It might shock some people to know that he Pearl Flip is running the same processor as the Pearl 8100 did back in 2006, but hums along rather well with the only major loading delays occurring where you would expect them, such as when opening a picture or starting a movie. There are times such as the aforementioned web browsing issues where it becomes pretty clear that OS 4.6.1 is pushing the 312MHz processor to its limits.
One of the first things that we noticed when handling the Pearl Flip was that it was having a difficult time maintaining full signal strength, typically staying somewhere between three and four bars while occasionally dropping to zero for a few seconds. We were able to isolate the problem to the device itself and rule out a network issue as we happened to have a 8830 on hand which was able to consistently achieve five bars. Because we didn’t have a newer OS build to upgrade to on hand, we’re unable to say whether or not this is a hardware issue or a software issue. Even with signal issues however, the Pearl Flip ran pretty fast with its EV-DO Rev. 0 connectivity but browsing anything beyond a WAP site on the thing is about as fun as looking at a photo of the New York City skyline on a postage stamp. That is, non-WAP websites load up pretty much like they do on a computer except that to fit on the screen the whole thing is zoomed out. By the time you zoom in to where text is legible it takes up so much of the screen that it requires constant scrolling which in turn makes the phone lag.
If we were to rate the Pearl Flip against the best phones on the market like the Bold, Fuze and iPhone 3G, it would absolutely be crushed and no one can deny that. But doing that would be foolish as this device is not at all intended to compete with such devices. So, taking into consideration where it stands in the market place, what it offers and how much it costs, we’d have to say that the Pearl Flip is definitely capable of holding its own. So what would we rate the TELUS BlackBerry 8230 Pearl Flip? 3.5 BG’s out of 5.
Head on over to our gallery for more shots of the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 from TELUS.