BlackBerry it seems is no longer the preserve of the office honcho looking to stay in touch with the boardroom while sunning it on the beach. Heck, even the COO Larry Conlee want to "get BlackBerry out of the boardroom".

Research in Motion, the company behind the now iconic business device has launched its latest version, the BlackBerry Pearl, a consumer-friendly looking 14.5mm thick mobile phone with digital camera and multimedia functions.

Pocket-lint was one of the first online publications in the UK to get its hands on the new device, which RIM hope will help it challenge the likes of Nokia and Sony Ericsson.

Small, thin and compact are the best way to describe the sleek mobile phone. It’s the company's thinnest yet and almost half the size of Nokia's N70 handset. Showing it around the office and to hardened BlackBerry fans most seemed to like the gloss black finish with chrome trim and the small white iridescent "Pearl" looking control dongle situated just under the screen.

This dongle is not only were the phone gets its name from, but also the key navigation tool for getting around the phone, with BlackBerry deciding to lose the familiar scroll wheel normally found at the side.

"The scroll wheel is the key to a BlackBerry and it’s a shame it's gone", said one CrackBerry addict we showed as he kept reaching for a button no longer there.

Above the "Pearl", the phone sports a crisp large (240 x 260) display similar to the HTC's MTeoR 3G handset however building on the MTeoR, RIM has included its SureType QWERTY keypad that has two QWERTY keys to every numerical key so you can still type without having to revert to text speak. In practice we've had mixed experience, however the bunch of hardened BlackBerry fans we talked to loved it, although one did point out that, like the screen, it wouldn't be as easy to complete work from as on his 7200.

But, with RIM already offering a plethora of options for its business users being able to treat the Pearl

as a laptop replacement isn't the main aim. The main aim, according to its Managing Director, is "Trying to tap into the huge consumer messaging market".

That consumer angle shines through even more with the inclusion of a 1.3 megapixel camera on the rear of the phone with its built-in flash and 5x digital zoom.

Furthermore in an attempt to appeal to more consumers than previously RIM has added a media player and stereo headset for music and videos on the go. MP3 and ACC music files and MPEG4 and H.263 video files are supported and users can either opt to store the files on the cameras internal memory or on a Micro SD card hidden inside.

"It's got a camera, oh that's much better, I wish mine had a camera", one of our CrackBerry testers said.

Beneath its sleek exterior, which measures 4.2 x 1.97 x 0.57" and weighs 88 grams, the BlackBerry Pearl is a quad-band GSM/GPRS and EDGE-enabled, however not 3G.

"We offer 3G in other devices", we were told by the company's COO when we questioned the reasoning. It's a strange omission especially given the messaging nature of the device, however we presume it was one of size issues rather than specifications, the company admitted that was certainly the case for not including a digital camera with a higher megapixel count.

Just in case those business users are starting to feel left out with all those new multimedia features the BlackBerry Pearl features Bluetooth for connecting to all manner of accessories including GPS and handsfree kits.

Verdict

The BlackBerry Pearl is the company's most consumer-focused model yet, showing that the company is keen to take operations like Nokia and Sony Ericsson head on.

It's certainly thin and suave getting plenty of oohs and arhhs from our collection of BlackBerry users we cobbled together to help us with this review.

Where the phone will succeed is those looking for more messaging, but not prepared to go for the rather large full QWERTY keyboard option already offered by RIM. And at that task it succeeds in offering something of a middle man without losing its way on the journey.

Grumbles? Well it has to be getting used to the rocker key keypad (although this shouldn't take you too long) and the losing of the scroll wheel at the side, other than that, it’s a BlackBerry through and through and we like it.