Verizon BlackBerry Pearl Flip Review

Verizon Pearl Flip 8230
By Adam Zeis on 18 Jun 2009 10:57 am EDT

Verizon BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230

With the release of the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 (for GSM carriers), RIM marked a milestone with its first-ever flip phone.  Fast forward a few months and the device began showing up on CDMA carriers in North America and has finally come to Verizon. Positioned as an "entry-level" smartphone, the Pearl Flip is geared towards new BlackBerry users and Pearl 81xx converts. It appeals to those who value a mobile phone that's small to carry around and steers clear of the power users that prefer a full QWERTY device such as the Bold or Curve to get the job done (or in the case of Verizon, the soon-to-be released Tour 9630).  The device is solid and easy to learn, which makes it a great starter for those jumping into the BlackBerry world for the first time.  SurePress greatly resembles that of predictive text (or T9) found on standard phones, so users can more easily adjust to the typing style.  

Quick Overview

Before we move into the hands-on, let's recap some of the discussion points and key features surrounding RIM's BlackBerry Pearl Flip.

Key features:
  • Two high-resolution color displays; the external LCD allows customers to preview incoming messages without opening the handset
  • 2.0 megapixel camera with zoom, flash and video recording capabilities; video recording requires a microSD card, which can be purchased separately
  • Large SureType QWERTY keyboard for easy typing and dialing
  • Advanced media player for music, videos and pictures
  • microSD/SDHC card slot with support for up to 16 GB of memory per card
  • BlackBerry Internet Service and BlackBerry Enterprise Server support
  • Voice-activated dialing and speakerphone capabilities

Lifestyle features:

  • Easy mobile access to Facebook, MySpace and Flickr, as well as popular instant messaging services (e.g. Yahoo! IM, AIM, Google Talk and Windows Live Messenger)
  • Support for BlackBerry App World, featuring a broad and growing catalog of third-party mobile applications developed specifically for the BlackBerry Pearl Flip. Categories include games, entertainment, social networking and sharing, news and weather, productivity and much more
  • BlackBerry Media Sync allows for easy syncing of music collections to the BlackBerry Pearl Flip (certain music files may not be supported, including files that contain digital rights management technologies)
  • Visual Voice Mail to help customers prioritize their messages
  • VZ Navigator(SM)-capable, which means customers get audible turn-by-turn directions to more than 15 million points of interest; customers can also get directions to any address in the U.S. and share the directions with others

Initial Reactions and Observations 

BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Front View BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Back View

BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Right Side View BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Left Side View
The BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230

When first pulling the Pearl Flip 8230 from the box, a slight smirk came over me. Every time I see this device I laugh a bit. I just can't picture any BlackBerry as a flip phone. Not seeing a screen with a keyboard below just seems odd to me at this point (the Storm being our obvious exception, but that's another story all together). The device feels great when closed. It essentially is the same size & weight as your "standard" clamshell dumbphone. It weighs about the same as my Blackberry Curve when held side by side. The quality is good overall, but the plastic design of the shell took me back at first. The front "jiggles" a bit when played with, but it's by no means loose. It just feels that it could have been tighter and sit better when closed. Overall, the form is sleek and comfortable when closed. The front has a glossy finish to it that makes it slick and stand out. The back and sides are silver, and don't 100% match the front. It seems to me like the color/finish should have been the same through all pieces of the device, which it is not.

Hardware Observations

The Flip feels great in your hand. It takes some adjusting coming from the wider Curve 8330, but it sits well overall. The hardest part to adust to is the length when opened. It sits well, but it feels like it is top-heavy due to the length of the device. I also struggled quite a bit trying to decide if it was a "one-hander" or a "two-hander". I'm used to using both hands to type on my 8330 at most times, however on the 8230 I found it hard to decide if I was supposed to use one or both hands. I was never a Pearl user, so this adjustment was quite hard for me. As much as I want to use only one hand, I feel that there is no easy way to go about it being that the screen throws off the weight, making it hard to balance when using only one hand.

BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Home Screen BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Open

BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Keypad BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Keypad Front

When open, the 8230 is a slight bit thinner than my 8330. It has a solid keyboard. The keys are laid out extremely well, and they fit in well on the device. Even my fat thumbs had no trouble typing, and I never hit any keys in error. The Send/End cluster feels great as well. The trackball is recessed to allow the device to close properly. At first it was tough to get used to, but I actually like the way it feels now. You kind of have a "bumper" so your thumb doesn't wander off when trackballing. The female population may have more of a mixed reaction to this recessed trackball design - it's not necessarily as friendly to longer females. Ladies will want to check out this Pearl Flip review for a female, new to BlackBerry perspective on the device.

The device feels very solid when open as well. The screen stays open as it should, and doesn't easily flip closed on its own. You can whip the Flip (I'm gonna trademark that line) and it will stay open. The screen is great as well. It is a good eye adjustment trying to go from a 320x240 screen, to a 240x320 screen. It is bright and clear and looks much better than the screen on my Curve 8330, though based on the resolution I would have thought it should be the same (just my Curve's display turned sideways). Early reviews of the Pearl Flip 8220 often reported that the display didn't appear to have as good of a quality, but I'm happy with the display on the Verizon unit. 

The side buttons and ports are all laid out very well with no real room for improvement. On the left side is the small Mute button, 3.5mm earphone jack, MicroUSB port for charging/synching and a convenience key. On the right are the volume buttons, convenience key and MicroSD slot. The buttons and ports are laid out very well, and flow nicely with the design. There is nothing lacking, and both the MircoUSB port and 3.5mm jack are very solid and well placed. The convenience keys are just the right size, and don't feel loose or cheap at all. The volume buttons fit right in, placed directly over the MicroSD slot. There is no obstruction from the MicroSD slot cover. The only button that seems oddly placed is the Mute. It seems a bit small and hard to press at times, but I suppose that is the idea behind it. Overall the design is excellent. I don't fear that any buttons or ports will become loose with age, and I feel that the device can stand up to the use of a true BlackBerry addict.

In comparison to the rest of Verizon's lineup, the 8230 fits right in. Where the GSM carriers have a line of full QWERTY devices, I like that Verizon mixed it up and has QWERTY devices like the 8830 and 8330, the touchscreen Storm 9530 and the Pearl Flip 8230. And of course we can't forget the BlackBerry Tour that is on the way. As you can see from the shots below, the size of the 8230 is quite a bit different in comparison. When closed, it matches closely to the rest of the line, but obviously when open it sets itself apart. The weight of the device lands it somewhere heavier than the 8330, but lighter than the 9530. 

BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Side By Side Comparison BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Side By Side Comparison

BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Side By Side Comparison BlackBerry Verizon Pearl Flip 8230 Side By Side Comparison
Stacking up the family

BlackBerry OS 4.6

Precision Zen themePrecision Theme Stylings
Pearl Flip 8230 with OS 4.6

The BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 uses OS 4.6. This OS is the standard for recent devices like the Bold and Curve 8900. Only the Storm 95xx series ships with a higher OS. The features of 4.6 are a big step up from the soon to be outdated OS 4.5. The Precision Zen theme is the default, and gone are the multiple BB Dimension L, Zen, Icon and Today themes.  Things like BlackBerry Messenger recieved an overhaul in this OS, as well as the browser and the addtion of IM and Social Network applications. The OS is easy to use and navigate. First time users will want to check out some of our BlackBerry 101 articles for information on using message folders and BlackBerry Messenger. There is plenty of juice under the hood to keep things running smooth as well.

RIM is currently working on OS 5.0, which will further up the ante of the BlackBerry operating experience. Based on this document which surfaced sometime ago, it appears that the Pearl Flip is slated to be one of the devices that will get the benefits of 5.0, though at present we have heard much more chatter about 5.0 for the Bold / 8900 / Storm and Tour than for the Pearl Flip. But hopefully it will get this treatment.


The Bottom Line

The Pearl Flip from Verizon is good choice for those who like the form factor of a flip phone and want to upgrade from their current dumbphone to something with more features and capabilities. All BlackBerry smartphones produced by Research in Motion are capable of delivering the same solution, so the Pearl Flip allows you to get in on BlackBerry benefits like push email, BlackBerry Messenger, and load up with apps which all tend to lead to getting hooked on BlackBerry. The media player and camera (with flash and video recording) make it a solid lifestyle device as well.


  • Good device for first time users
  • External display is an awesome feature
  • Great update for existing 81xx users


  • Flip design is not for everyone
  • Screen size makes web browsing & some application difficult
  • Not a "power user" device 
  • Slower than other BlackBerry smartphones (old processor, newer OS)

Cost of Ownership:

Device with 2yr contract is $129.99 (after $70 mail-in rebate).  Basic 450 voice minute plan is $39.99, added to the $29.99 Email and Web for BlackBerry (required).  With basic plans across the board, the total cost of owning the Pearl Flip 8230 for 2 years would be estimated at about $1,809.  A higher minute plan or service for BES will drastically add to this pricetag.  Adding in any test message plan, VZ Navigator, insurance, visual voicemail and other features will bring the total to well over $2,000.  

Related Links

Adam Zeis Adam Zeis "Mobile Nations Content Strategist" 3740 (articles) 2892 (forum posts)

Reader comments

Verizon BlackBerry Pearl Flip Review


While, I can't see ever going back to the "Pearl" format, I think this is a great addition to the VZW lineup. There is definitely a market for this and it's nice to see they actually did a decent job creating a flip phone with the power of a BB behind it. Thanks for the review!

*note* "it's not necessarily as friendly to longer females (fingernails)" lol, watch out for those long females.

I would have jumped on this two years ago when I made the transistion from my motorola RAZR to the 8130 Pearl. But no way I'd do that now. Smart Phones need more screen real estate to fully utilize current and upcoming applications.

anyone have a picture of the flip opened next to the front of an 8330??? ... would like to see the screens side by side...

Thank you

I like this model BlackBerry, just for days where I want/fancy a switch...

But, I hope it's faster than the 8220. I guess after using the BOLD for a while, I've become accustomed to it's speed...

umm .. your prospective Pearl flip user is not going to text?..

450mins + email/internet + text is $99.99/mo on Verizon..

Who gets to test these and give reviews on them before they even come out?! I have always wondered who gets to be the ONE who they give the phones to like this. :P

the gsm versions all have a blackfaceplate regardless of the phones color :/ i likebthe matching verizon version

where can I find one of these "longer females" you speak of when referring to the recessed trackball? perhaps you meant to type fingernails?

Yesterday I was able to play with one at a Verizon Store. It feels like a cheap ass toy. Keyboard feels like cheap plastic. Only cool thing about it is the OS 4.6. I think RIM has just killed the Peal line.

I was at a verizon store and rep showed me a flip. I first said to him this is so cheap compared to the t mobile version, he then said it's a display phone. He said he would not have any till next week. I actually will have the wife check it out for her first blackberry.

If I'm going to spend the same $30 for data, which is pretty much the entirety of the cost of owning a BlackBerry, then why wouldn't I opt for the most top-of-the-line model? They need to drop the data costs (surely, Pearl users do not consume as much data traffic) if they want any reasonable person to buy this phone.

I would agree, but by that logic, they should cut the cost for any non-3G plan since edge users would consume less than 3G users. I don't think the flip is that much slower than previous pearls or the older curve since they use the same processor. (At least the 8220 seems to get a little faster with each revision of the firmware from my experience) But the problem is, even if the carriers did go for a graduated plan, they wouldn't actually cut the cost of the slower connections, they would just increase the cost of the faster data plans and then focus on how the slower data plans are cheaper trying to imply your getting a break when you're really not.

Currently, I have a Curve 8330. Ive always liked a clamshell, or flip phone. I've read the article, played the video and read the comments here so far. I think I may look to upgrade to the Pearl Flip. I'm not a business/power user of my curve, so I don't believe the Pearl Flip will be an issue as far as that goes for me. I've tested out the sure-type on the Storm, and it was very easy to get use to, being that I will be coming from a fully Qwerty keypad on my curve. I look forward to checking this out at Verizon, and then go from there! :)

I'm thinking that if I use this phone it will help me slow down my BlackBerry addiction. Maybe I need something that gives me a little less power

I found nothing about GPS (a keyfeature of RIM-Devices with a '1' and a '3' at the 3rd position in the model-number)

BB 8210 has GPS (device not available - but the BB 8110 has GPS)
BB 8220 has WLAN
BB 8230 has GPS and WLAN

I have the 8220 from T-Mobile Austria and I wait for the BB 8230. The Pearl Flip is the only device, where you can work with one hand, because it has very large keys and the width is narrow.

As said above I can see a market for this device. I myself would not give up my Storm because I don't like the trackball. Maybe it's just because I haven't used one much... dunno.

The flip has been available over here in the uk for a while now, my wife has had hers for a few months now and she loves it. I quite like it as well but it feels alot slower than my 8900.

Just correcting your error. The Storm is the only BB with SurePress technology. The Pearl series has SureType which is the intuitive text (predictice text) typing method. :)

for about as much as i want to like this new model put out by blackberry, i still prefer the previous models which didn't have this flip feature. maybe it's just me, but i prefer the storm...

John C

This past summer I saw my aunt who had recently purchased the pearl flip. It actually looked and felt decent and it works for her. I, myself prefer my regular pearl. I haven't used a flip since razors were in and don't plan on ever leaving bb. But to each their own.

I recently purchased this for me and another for my daughter. What a waste of money. For all the advance operations, it was fine...just the screen is too small to really use the internet features. We live in a fairly rural setting and the reception was terrible...sound quality was garbled and would pick up interference from any other phone around. Could only hear through the phone on the loudest setting, voice transmission was awful. Could not get reception in most areas of my house, it would only register 1 bar. This was for both phones. After much to do and over 3 hours at the carrier store was able to return the phone - still within their 30 day satisfaction guarented time frame. Went back to a regular phone, LG, and have no trouble with sound quality or ability to pick up a signal. If you want internet features, go with a Droid or IPhone. Upgraded my daughter's phone to a Motorolla Droid and it is far superior to any Blackberry in terms of sound quality and signal reception.

I got my flip in July 2009 it worked for a wile the started to freeze up Verizon sent me a new one in October had it a month and the same thing happened called Verizon they sent me a 3rd phone Ive had it 1 1/2 week now this phone is doing the same thing . I had the pearl and I loved it . But myself I think the Pearl flip is a piece of crap . SORRY