The Blackberry Pearl 8120 was originally released in October 2007. At this time the Blackberry range was branching out in two styles: the Curve range, and the Pearl range. The Pearl was released in a couple of variants: Blackberry Pearl 8100, Blackberry Pearl 8110, and Blackberry Pearl 8120. The latter two were an incremental upgrade on the first, very few of the dimensions changed and we saw an improved 2MP camera on the latter. On-board storage dropped from 64MB to 32MB, but this is hardly a problem when the phone has an on-board storage card.
The phone is noticeably slimmer than the Curve range thanks to the fact that it does not have a proper QWERTY keyboard, although this is half implemented by having the letters imposed this way. Full specifications here.
What people like is perhaps down to personal taste. Arguably writing long passages of text is easier on a full keyboard, but on the other hand when individual keys are so small it may be easier to press properly sized keys, even if doing things the old-fashioned way.
The original Pearl also saw the start of the rollerball navigation system to move a small mouse pointer across the phone. Very few phones offered free-rolling balls for this. Many phones did offer a central ball joystick which was fixed to move only in different directions. Whilst this did meet the needs for a short period of time, the more efficient trackpad became standard and later touchscreens would take out the need altogether.
The Pearl ended up dying out as it was the least popular version of the keyboard, with Blackberry users much preferring the Curve-style full QWERTY. There were never many models released and the Blackberry Pearl 9100 in 2010 was one of the last to feature this layout.
Pros of Blackberry Pearl 8120:
The form factor is much thinner than the Curve series as a result of less keys. This made the shape of the phone much more like a standard mobile phone and easier to get to grips with.
The rollerball also made a big increase in usability. Predecessors like the Blackberry 7100 made use of a roller down the side of the screen which allowed a choice of menu items, but for the first time a roller-ball allowed free movement.
The half-QWERTY keypad works well when you get the hang of it. The keys are larger than the Curves and errors are less common as a result.
With a mini-USB charger and microSD card slot the phone is reasonably future-proof.
Cons of Blackberry Pearl 8120:
Aside from the camera which got an upgrade to 2MP there was not a lot else upgraded on this model, when it could have done.
Perhaps as a result of differing price points and markets, the Pearl feels a little under-specced. Many phones of the same era benefited from slightly larger screens at better resolutions.
The keypad and navigation methods would have quite mixed reactions, and some won’t particularly like one compared to the other. The market segmentation between the Curve and the Pearl looks tenuous in retrospect given they run the same OS.
Future Prospects and Current Pricing:
Blackberry models are some of the cheapest second-hand models you can find, and older models such as the Pearl family are perhaps the cheapest. The reason for this may be that the form factor is not one that Blackberry will be remembered for, and the older Blackberry models are a little more collectible due to the lower availability. It was at about this time that the phones really started being targeted at the leisure segment, with much success. It may take some time before this is considered a rare, or desirable handset.
Where can I get one?