RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 Review

Introduction and Design

The clamshell phone has been the standard for nearly a decade now, but the form factor never lent itself well to smartphones.  Sure, we saw an i500 here and a PN820 there, but they’ve all been outliers in a bar and slide dominated market.  In their quest to penetrate the consumer market you can now add RIM to the list of these outliers; they introduced the Pearl Flip last year on T-Mobile.  In terms of features it’s basically identical to the RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230, the difference here is form factor.  Will this be enough to breathe life into the aging Pearl?

Included in the box you’ll find:

•    AC adapter
•    microUSB data cable
•    Stereo headphones


The RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 is a clamshell phone.  While on the larger side, the size still feels good in the hand when closed.  It’s about the same size as the Samsung Alias 2, another flip phone with a full keyboard.  Of course the Pearl Flip doesn’t exactly have a full keyboard; RIM employs their SureType keyboard for space saving just as on the Pearl.

You can compare the RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

The keyboard will again be love/hate, with us falling into the latter category.  It feels even more cramped this time around, despite the width being essentially the same.  The keys are harder, which does help RIM’s case.  They have plenty of travel and feedback, but the overall feeling is cheap.  Materials are an issue throughout the device; the front has a nice glossy finish, but the rest of the device is constructed of cheap plastic.

The displays are good enough.  The outside one is 1.6” and 128x160, and internally you’ll find a 2.6” QVGA panel.  They are both crisp and easy to read in all lighting conditions.  The 2 megapixel camera sits atop the front of the flip with the LED flash.  On the left side of the phone you’ll find the mute switch, a 3.5mm headset jack, the microUSB port and a convenience key.  On the right is the other convenience key, the volume rocker and microSD slot.  The speaker is on the phone’s tiny chin.

The overall feel of the device is pretty poor when opened.  For starters, the trackball is very recessed out of necessity, but it feels awful.  When you hold it to your face the top half of the flip is set back, causing the bottom to rest against your cheek.  All-in-all we very much dislike the feel of the opened Pearl Flip, both because of the design and because of the cheap materials RIM has chosen.  On the whole we can’t say we’re crazy about the design of the RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 and think RIM should stick to their tried and true bar form-factor.

RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 360 Degrees View:

User Interface:

By now there are several devices running 4.6 but it is still a visually beautiful UI with modern icons and a more refined look overall.  Functionality, however, remains basically the same as past OS versions.  There have been some minor adjustments and tweaks to the categories, but anyone who has used the BlackBerry OS before will find themselves right at home on 4.6.

The layout is for the most part straightforward, but for a new user can still be intimidating at first glance.  Since every program has its own icon the user is inundated with 24 icons on the main menu, some of which are merely folders which lead to more icons.  It can be overwhelming for a first time BlackBerry owner, but once you use it you realize that the OS is very customizable and on the whole RIM’s approach is much better than, say, Windows Mobile (TouchFLO 3D aside.)  Its constant request for confirmation is very Windows Vistaish and quite frustrating; to close out of the setup wizard took four steps, for example.

Like the 8900 and 8520 we’ve experienced no hang-ups with the software.  There is no hint of the issues reported with the Bold and Storm (which runs the 4.7 OS, a touchscreen version of 4.6.)  Users will be happy to see that their stable BlackBerry has returned and can go back to focusing on business instead of if their device will crash or not.


There isn’t anything new with the phonebook of the RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230.  It’s as simple and straightforward as ever, and you can store virtually an unlimited amount of contacts.  Each contact can hold three email addresses, two work phone numbers, two home numbers, a mobile, pager, fax and “other” number as well as a space for a BlackBerry PIN number.  There is a slot for both a home and work address, as well as dates for anniversary and birthdays. Contacts can be sorted by user definable categories, each entry can have a custom ringer and picture ID, and there is a section for a webpage and notes.

Users can search directly from the main screen by typing in either the first or last name, and as you start to type a number in the phone application the Curve matches it with the contact list. When an entry is highlighted from the main contacts view the user can hit the send button to initiate a call. If the entry has multiple numbers it will bring up a popup window where you can select which one you want to call.  As always, Nuance is included for voice dialing.


Like the phonebook, the calendar function is very robust. It can be managed either on your phone or on your PC, and when paired to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) it can be remotely managed and synced over the air. Creating an appointment is simple, and options such as reminders and recurrence are present. Appointments can also be marked as private for added security.

Other basic PIM functions are available, such as Tasks and a Memo Pad. Tasks is very basic, but reminders can be set and they can also be grouped into categories. The Memo Pad is a basic notepad, no bells and whistles. A Voice Note Recorder is present for taking notes on the go, and a basic calculator is also available.


Like any BlackBerry, the Pearl Flip 8230 supports a whole slew of messaging options. Standards like SMS and MMS are onboard, as is support for multiple email accounts and BlackBerry PIN messaging.  Other preloaded IM clients are AIM, GTalk, ICQ, Windows Live and Yahoo Messenger allowing you to keep in touch with virtually anyone.

Email setup on the BlackBerry is about as perfect as it gets, we simply put in our email and password and that was it. Even with our uncommon work email we didn’t have to enter any server information. The push email arrived nearly instantaneously in our testing. With the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) the user can have up to 10 email addresses on one device.

The drawback on the Flip 8230 is again the SureType keyboard.  Ironically we love T9, but no matter how many times and how hard we try we just cannot get the hang of it.  As we already covered, the keyboard does not do the device any favors.

Connectivity and Data:

The RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 has EVDO Rev. 0 for 3G cellular data.  Wi-Fi is unfortunately lacking, but GPS is on board though seems to be locked on our Verizon Flip as Google Maps was not able to pinpoint us.  It has Bluetooth 2.0 (but no EDR) and supports the headset, hands-free and serial port profiles.

The browser is the same one found on devices after the Bold, and it’s still passable but not great.  Opera Mini should be an immediate download.  BlackBerry Desktop Manager handles desktop sync as always.  It is used to manage calendar, tasks, contacts and email synchronization with your desktop.  You can also use the data cable to load media onto the memory card, and Media Sync will allow for iTunes syncing of non-DRM files, like we’ve seen with other recent BlackBerry devices.


The media player is laid out well and simple to use, but not overly loaded with features. It supports folders, and will sort your music by Artist, Album and Genres. It also supports album art and playlists, which the user can create on the go, and the other options are Repeat and Shuffle. Audio formats supported are MP3, MIDI, AMR-NB, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+ and WMA, while the video formats are MPEG4 Part 2 Simple Profile, H.263 and WMV.  Unfortunately there is no XviD or DivX support like the Bold or Curve 8900.  The landscape screen is not nearly as good for video as devices like the Curve 8900 and 8520, and though the software is the same we don’t see the Pearl Flip as a viable multimedia device.  The included stereo headphones are pretty poor, but the 3.5mm jack means you can use any headphones you want.  With our higher quality headphones music sounded much better.

The camera was very average, with color saturation, detail and graining being an issue.  Features are sparse; the user can set white balance and geotagging is supported, but other than that you’ll find nothing.  It took about two seconds to launch the camera and another one to snap a picture, but it took about seven seconds to capture another one.  The flash is ok at short distances, as you would expect from a single LED.  Videos cannot be recorded without a memory card, which is not included.  They can be captured in MMS (176x144) or Normal (240x180) modes, neither of which is all that great.


The RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 has 128MB of ROM and RAM.  The most notable included software is the DataViz Documents to Go package, which allows for viewing and editing of Office documents.  Other standard BlackBerry software is loaded as well, including Maps and Brick Breaker.  On the social networking front, Flickr, Facebook and MySpace are all preloaded.  Verizon has preloaded VZNavigator and Visual Voicemail on the Flip, both of which are paid services.


Call quality was above average on the Pearl Flip.  Callers did not have any complaints except that we sounded “tinny,” and gave us an overall 7/10 rating.  On our end they sounded just fine.  Voice reproduction was natural, sound was loud enough and there was little to no background noise.  The battery is rated at a pedestrian 3.5 hours of talk time and 9 days of standby, but in our testing we achieved a very good 6 hours and 20 minutes.


We appreciate when companies break from tradition and try something different.  This is what spurs innovation and leads to advancements in the industry.  Most of these gambles don’t work out however, and the Pearl Flip falls squarely into this category.  Part of it is RIM’s fault for using cheap materials, part of it is just that a device like a BlackBerry doesn’t translate well into the flip form factor.  Either way, it doesn’t work.  The keyboard is bad, the feel is awful and there is nothing new about the RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 other than, well, it flips.

RIM BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8230 Video Review:


  • No butt dialing
  • Better than advertised battery life


  • Poor feel, in part due to the materials used
  • SureType keyboard is still dismal
  • Locked GPS

PhoneArena Rating:


User Rating:

8 Reviews

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