Flipping for the New BlackBerry Pearl

The new BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 is one heck of a device.
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With all the recent hub-bub about Apple's (AAPL) - Get Report iPhone 3G, T-Mobile's (DT) - Get Report G-1 (the first Google (GOOG) - Get Reportphone) and the new Research In Motion (RIMM) Blackberry Bold and Storm phones -- no one should overlook another new device that has just been announced -- the brand new BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220.

The Flip is the first-ever BlackBerry flip-open phone and is very cool. I've been testing it for a short time, and took a look at it a month ago

in this video in San Francisco

. I have to tell you, this is one heck of a terrific device.

First of all, this is the smallest and lightest BlackBerry I've ever carried in my pocket. It measures 2 inches by 3.9 inches by 0.7 inches and weighs only 3.6 ounces. It is a GSM/EDGE world phone (operating on the 850/900/1800/1900 MHz bands) and has a lithium-ion battery that can provide up to four hours of talk and 15 days of stand-by power.

The tiny handset has so many built-in features I don't know where to begin. There's Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth, a 2 megapixel video and still camera, real HTML Web browsing, hi-fi ringtones, a MP3 music player, microSD memory card slot (a 256MB card is included), Internet email capabilities and, of course, BlackBerry email.

The Wi-Fi is a terrific feature for two reasons. The Flip is not a 3G device. EDGE is 2.5G technology. It's a little slower than most 3G services, but is a lot easier on battery life. Wi-Fi allows the phone to fly when you're near a friendly 802.11 network.

Because the Flip does Wi-Fi, it can take advantage of T Mobile's HotSpot@Home service that routes your calls over the Internet via Wi-Fi instead of using your minutes on T-Mobile's cellular network. Think of it as VoIP for your cell phone. The service costs only $9.99 in addition to your regular monthly calling plan and offers unlimited domestic calling via Wi-Fi. This service also solves any problem you might have finding a usable cell-phone signal inside your home. As an added benefit, voice quality when using Wi-Fi to make calls is terrific.

The only feature I questioned was the keypad. The Flip uses the Pearl's two-letters-per-key system. When you first use the phone it takes time to type in information. But the phone's predictive spelling software does a great job of learning how and what you type, so that after a few days of use, it begins to know what words you want to use. I'm now able to fly when sending messages.

I have my corporate BlackBerry mail on the Flip as well as my Google mail. Originally, I tried both the internal BlackBerry system to set up my Google mail account as well as Google's own downloadable applet made especially for BlackBerries. It's not even a contest. Go with the Google app; it's terrific.

And while I'm mentioning applets, I'd like to give a thumbs-up for


BlackBerry application

, which makes accessing our Web site a breeze.

The BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220 sells for $149.99 on T-Mobile's Web site. That's with a two-year service contract of your choice. And don't forget the additional $10-per-month Wi-Fi service, it might make you forget your old-fashioned, wired home-phone service.

If you're in the market for a new smartphone, you may want to take a long, hard look at the BlackBerry Pearl Flip. The tiny phone may just be the perfect fit, both literally and figuratively.

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Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.