T-Mobile is now offering the BlackBerry Pearl 3G 9105 on pay as you go, in line with the current movement away from long-term mobile phone contracts.
You can now buy the smart phone for £250, and get an extra six months free email and Internet if you sign up before the end of August, as long as you buy £20 of airtime.
While certainly free, it's important to stress that this offer is limited. There's a 1GB per month fair-use policy for data sent and received in the UK.
Instead of the traditional Qwerty keyboard and large screen we've come to expect from BlackBerry, the BlackBerry Pearl 3G has a compact, candybar shape and an alphanumeric keypad. This means it can text predictively using the SureType algorithm, which is very similar to the T9 predictive-text system you get on most phones.
As mentioned in our review of the device, this is good if you're used to this method of texting, but for emailing, it may be best to go for a BlackBerry device with a traditional Qwerty keyboard.
As well as the addition of 3G, which is basically a standard feature of smart phones, there's also a useful 3.2-megapixel camera.
The BlackBerry Pearl 3G is an example of RIM's new focus on delivering smart phones that cater to customers outside their traditional business base. The fact that it's now available on pay as you go is a significant step towards non-business customers. Pay as you go makes the phone more accessible to those who don't need the Internet browsing or call minutes of a business user -- and there's no need to be tied in to a lengthy 18- or 24-month contract.
If you're thinking of buying one, consider that BlackBerry has recently announced a new phone in the BlackBerry Torch 9800, complete with touchscreen and a new BlackBerry 6 OS. Consider that although the Pearl 3G will likely be able to run a new OS, it won't have all the funky new features developed for the new line of BlackBerry smart phones.
The BlackBerry Pearl 3G handset is still available on contract for £25 a month with 300 minutes, 300 texts and unlimited BlackBerry email.