The Pearl 8120 has been out and about in the global community for awhile now, but it is just now making its way to the major North American carriers. AT&T released their version of the 8120 last month, and I was confused as ever as to why they released it instead of the 8110. Since AT&T does not have a UMA feature, it just did not make any sense to me. However, T-Mobile does have their Hotspot at Home feature which does allow the user to make and receive calls via WiFi. I have been anticipating the arrival of the 8120 at T-Mobile since I first heard of its release on the other side of the pond.
T-Mobile released the Pearl 8120 on April 14th, 2008, and I made sure I went it to my T-Mobile store on the day of release to get one. There were several customers in the store when I arrived, and I had to wait my turn to be helped. While waiting, a very nice woman saw me looking at all the BlackBerry’s on display and walked up and began speaking with me. She informed me that she was the local BlackBerry representative and asked if I had any questions about any of the devices. I told her that I was looking at the 8120 and was interested in getting that. We continued talking and I mentioned that I would be writing a review on the 8120 for CrackBerry.com. She then informed me that she always refers people to CrackBerry.com. I’m sure she’ll be looking for my review on the 8120 now :-)
My turn finally came, and minutes later I had my BlackBerry Pearl 8120 in my hands. I asked the sales representative how many they had sold so far, and he stated I was the second one today. The only color option at this time is Titanium, which lucky for me is the same color as my Curve 8320, and just so happens to be a color I like.
The BlackBerry Pearl 8120 is available in T-Mobile retail stores and on the T-Mobile website for $149.99 after mail in rebate with a 2-year contract.
Part of the fun of unboxing my new Pearl 8120 was taken away by the T-Mobile sales representative. Of course, he had to open the box first, and was the first one to get his grubby little hands on my new Pearl. However, he did quickly hand it over to me, and I was able to get my paws all over it.
The box itself is pretty standard as far other BlackBerry’s I have purchased from T-Mobile. It shows a picture of the device, lists the basic features, and of course advertises that the Pearl 8120 is a Hotspot@Home device.
Since I was unable to officially take my new Pearl 8120 out of the box, I recreated the moment as it should have been when I got home. Below you can find my unboxing video. As you can see from the video, the contents of the box include the Pearl 8120, Tips and Tricks Guide, Getting Started Guide, Desktop Manager CD, travel charger, USB sync cable, stereo headset with 3.5mm connector, and a pocket pouch with sleeper magnet.
The SIM card slot on the 8120 is different from the 8100 and 8320. They both utilize an awkward flimsy metal door that holds down the SIM, and it quite prone to breaking if you don’t know how to properly use it. The 8120 reverted back to old school design of the 8700 device where there is a special slot to slide your SIM card in to. Also like the 8700, once the card is in place, it is not very easy to remove.
There is no longer a place on this inside of the device for your MicroSD card. The 8120 was redesigned with the MicroSD slot accessible from the exterior of the device along the left hand side. The MicroSD card slide into the slot, and is locked into place. When you want to remove it, simply push in on the card, and it has a spring loaded release. This is by far one of the biggest improvements that RIM made on the Pearl.
Now that all the vital pieces are in place, it’s time to put the battery back in, and boot this baby up.
Opening the Box
There she be!
And all the other stuff!
Handset Features and Design
The BlackBerry Pearl 8120 is the third device released by Research in Motion that has WiFi/EDGE capabilities. The BlackBerry 8820 was the first device, and the BlackBerry Curve 8320 is the second device. The Pearl 8120 is just as sleek and lightweight as the original Pearl, and I think the new added features will sway many original Pearl users to upgrade to the new Pearl 8120. We’ll discuss some of these new features in the coming paragraphs.
Front and Back - As Sleek As 8100!
Externally Accessbile MicrodSD Card Slot - Sweet!
BlackBerry and T-Mobile issued a press release on April 1st announcing the availability of the 8120 along with all of its advanced features. Here are some of the features that were listed:
Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g) connectivity for expanded coverage, as well as fast Web browsing
Support for T-Mobile HotSpot @Home, offering unlimited nationwide calling over accessible Wi-Fi networks
Two-megapixel camera with 5x digital zoom and built-in flash
Advanced media player with full-screen video playback, stereo Bluetooth® support (A2DP/AVRCP) and 3.5mm stereo headset jack
Expandable memory storage via microSD/SDHC expansion slot and high-speed USB, for transferring files between the handset and a PC at up to 10MB per second
Enhanced SureType® keyboard with word completion, easier editing of misspelled words, built-in spelling checker and user-customizable dictionary
240 x 260 display with innovative light-sensing technology that automatically optimizes brightness for indoor, outdoor and dark environments
Numerous premium phone features with Speaker Independent Voice Recognition (SIVR) for Voice Activated Dialing (VAD), dedicated send, end and mute keys, noise-cancellation technology, a low-distortion speakerphone, Bluetooth 2.0 with support for hands-free use with headsets, car kits and other Bluetooth peripherals, and intuitive call management features such as smart dialing, conference calling, speed dialing and call forwarding
The Pearl 8120 offers Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE/Wi-Fi network support for international roaming. It weighs in at a measly 3.2oz, and its dimensions are 4.2” x 2.0” x 0.55”. It also contains an external microSD slot and has a 3.5mm stereo headset jack.
Device Setup and Activation
After the device had booted up, I was now ready to start transferring data and getting my new 8120 ready for use. I was greeted on screen by the Device Setup Wizard, which is a good tool to use for first time BlackBerry users. It takes about 10 minutes to run through the setup, and it will guide you setting up the correct language, adjusting the date and time, setting font style and size, setting up or creating an email account, and it gives you a basic tutorial of some of the device buttons. For users who are familiar with BlackBerry’s already, you can simply skip the Device Setup Wizard.
Now that you are ready to roll, you have a couple of different options on how to proceed. I’ll first cover basic setup for the first time user.
You should have completed the Device Setup Wizard by now, and you ready to move on to more advanced features of the 8120. I would suggest setting up your WiFi service next. Since the 8120 boots up with the T-Mobile theme as default, I will guide you through setup using that theme.
Press the Menu button to the left of the trackball, and scroll down to the “Set Up WiFi” icon. Press the trackball and you will be taken through the Setup WiFi wizard which should be pretty simple to navigate through. Select your WiFi network, enter the security passphrase if prompted to do so, and then you should be all set. You can change the name of the network if you so choose to do so. It only changes that network name on your device, and not on the actual network. I simply changed mine to “Home”. Click on the Finish button when done, and when you back out to the main screen, you should see that your WiFi icon is no longer grayed out, and is now a solid black and white, and your signal indicator should have switched from EDGE to UMA. Now if you don’t see these changes yet, be patient, sometimes it takes a few minutes to switch over to WiFi.
Now there are other things you can setup, for T-Mobile users, you will need to enter your APN settings to take full advantage of your device. Press the Menu button and scroll down to Options, the icon looks like a wrench. Go to Advanced Options, and then scroll down to TCP and click on that. You will now see a blank line for APN. Type the following into that line:
Username for APN:
Password for APN:
Leave the username and password area’s blank. Now press the menu button, select Save, and back out to the home screen again. For first time users, this should be enough to get you started in the right direction. Just start scrolling through the different applications on your device, and set them up one by one as you need them. If you find that you are lost or confused and need some help, just drop by the Help and Discussion Forums here at CrackBerry and get some guidance.
For advanced or prior BlackBerry users, you may want to use the Backup/Restore function, or the Switch Device Wizard on Desktop Manager to get your device up and running. I have found that the Switch Device Wizard is the easiest way to transfer data. Before I began, I performed a backup of my previous device just in case. It is always a good idea to perform regular backups of your device so you will always have some form of your device data archived. After my backup was complete, I now launched the Switch Device Wizard. After following the onscreen instructions and about 15 minutes later, my new Pearl 8120 was ready to use. All of my data had transferred over, including my WiFi settings from my 8320. The Pearl 8120 quickly switched over to UMA.
I now went to Options > Advanced Options > Host Routing Table, pressed the menu button, and selected Register now. Once my device was registered on the network, my Browser icon appeared, as well as the Setup Internet Email icon.
I went to the Setup Internet Email icon and was prompted if I wanted to switch what PIN was associated with my account. I made the change, and my service books for the device were sent, and my email accounts were now active on the Pearl 8120.
T-Mobile Splash Screen
Operating System Details
T-Mobile Start-Up screen
Putting the Pearl 8120 to use
I sent and received emails, used BlackBerry Messenger, made a phone call, and all worked just as expected. Data was streaming via WiFi and the little arrows in the upper righthand corner were moving with a purpose. The UMA signal was staying solid, and was not wavering as it had originally done when I first got my Curve 8320. One thing that may assist users with UMA is to use one of the routers sold by T-Mobile. I purchased the Linksys WRT-54G TM and found that I had fewer issues with UMA.
Call quality with the 8120 has been very good on both UMA and the EDGE network. Calls are transitioning between WiFi and the wireless network just as advertised, and I have not experienced a dropped call yet. Just like on the Curve 8320, users can send and receive data when on a call via UMA. There are many times in the past I have done this when I had my 8320 on speakerphone. If you are good at multi-tasking, you can send/receive emails or texts messages while on a call, as well as use any one of the several instant messaging applications on your device.
I visited a local Starbucks, and just as expected, the Pearl 8120 automatically switched over to UMA and was running off the T-Mobile Hotspot. Users will not have to do anything to their device to program it for T-Mobile Hotspots, the settings come pre-programmed on the device. As long as you have WiFi active on the device, it will automatically recognize the Hotspot and switch over. This is a great feature for anybody who works at or near a T-Mobile Hotspot. If you added to the Hotspot@Home Talk Forever add-on to your wireless plan, all your calls over the WiFi network would not count against your minutes package. I’m surprised I haven’t seen more Starbuck’s employees with BlackBerry’s.
Now that I have some of the basics down with the 8120, it’s time to get into some of the more advanced features that are new with the Pearl 8120 and OS 4.3.
Video recording is now available on the Pearl 8120. I shot a short video, and found that the only options for sending the video to another person were to use email or MMS. I would have liked to see an option for BlackBerry Messenger, but maybe that will come in a future upgrade. I first chose to send my video via email to one of my other email accounts, and when it arrived on my device, I did not even have the option to open the attachment. I’m not sure why it worked like that, so I decided to try that email account on my PC and found that I could download the file, but my PC would not play the file. Not sure what the issue was with that. I then decided to send the video via MMS to a friend using an AT&T 8120 and it worked. Looks like MMS is the only viable option for sending video’s at this time. The quality of the video is choppy and pixilated, but can you really expect HD quality video from such a small device? Also, it is important to mention that you must have a MicroSD card installed to use the video recording feature.
The Pearl 8120 also comes with one of the most coveted new themes available on the BlackBerry…. The L Theme. This new theme is a combination of the Classic Zen theme and the T-Mobile Zen theme. There are icons on the left side of the homescreen, as well as across the bottom, hence creating an appearance of an “L”. As with other Zen themes, the first set of icons shown on the home screen are dependant on how you organize your applications menu. The first eight icons will be displayed on the home screen. I had been a fan of the T-Mobile Zen theme, but always wanted to have just a few more icons available on the home screen, and the new L Theme gives me that option. I think most users will find that this is a great new theme!
Data speeds were initially a big issue when the Curve 8320 was released (you can read my out of the box review of the 8320 here). I did some very simple testing with my Curve and found that web browsing over WiFi was a little faster, but there was not that big of a difference. I noticed a huge difference when downloading an application via WiFi though.
I put the Pearl 8120 through a similar test and cleared the cache on the browser, and pulled up ESPN from WiFi first. It came up fully loaded in a lightening fast 7 seconds. I then cleared the cache again, turned off the WiFi, and pulled up ESPN again just using the EDGE network. I almost fell asleep by the time the page fully loaded… it took just over 90 seconds to fully load the page. This was a huge difference! It looks as if the WiFi browsing experience has improved since the Curve 8320 first launched.
The 8120 comes with a nice leather storage pouch. This is great to use if you like to carry your blackberry in your pocket or a purse. It will protect the device from scratches and scrapes, and the sleeper magnet will help save your battery life by putting your device in standby, and of course, you can take advantage of the in-holster functions.
I am not the biggest fan of pocket carrying by BlackBerry. I typically use a holster of some kind and will carry on the hip. Typically in the past when a new device was released, you had to wait for a few months before the accessory manufacturer’s had any holsters released for the device. Fortunately for 8120 users, the Pearl 8130 has been out for several months and has the same body style as the Pearl 8120. Therefore many choices of holsters can already be found in the CrackBerry Store. I know I’ll be ordering one soon!
The Pearl 8120 is a nice improvement over the original Pearl 8100. The keyboard does not feel as soft and squishy, and the device has the added benefit of WiFi. OS 4.3 has some nice new added features such as video recording and the L theme. The basic camera on the device has been bumped up to a 2.0 megapixel camera that takes crisp clear photos when you have good lighting conditions.
The device overall is very good. I am having some difficulty adjusting back to a SureType device after having been on a full QWERTY for over a year. It is not a fault with the 8120, just a fault with the user. Current owners of the Pearl 8100 should be able to transition into this device smoothly.
Not everything with the Pearl 8120 has been covered in this review. I covered some of the basics of setting up the device, and tried to anticipate what questions might be popping into your head as you read the article. If there is something you still want to know, post a question in the forums and let’s talk about it. Until then, thanks for reading, and keep on crackin’!
Small and lightweight
Easy to use wizards
Seamless transition from WiFi to wireless network
Video recording is choppy - still room for improvement
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