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Review: BlackBerry Pearl Flip

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The number of ways in which you can send a "message" with the BlackBerry Flip is bordering on ridiculous. As with other programs on the Flip, it may lack a pretty interface (though it's getting better), but the sacrifice of form for function is well worth it. The messaging center is tightly entwined with the calling and contacts applications. These three together create a strong triad of connectivity and communications options.

The main inbox holds every email, SMS, or MMS sent to the phone in one gigantic list. This can be a boon or a bane, depending on your style. If you like everything in one spot, it is quick and easy to access everything. If you have multiple email accounts tied to the Flip, and prefer to see the emails sorted into their respective inboxes, this view may not be for you. Luckily, you can sort out each inbox so they are in fact separate and you don't confuse which email account you are in. (The Flip supports up to 10 email accounts.)

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Probably the most powerful aspect of the messaging app is the search function. Because BlackBerries keep messages stored for 30 days (unless you delete them more often), searching your inbox might be a painful prospect for that one email or SMS you know contains vital information. With the search function, you can find practically anything in your inbox as long as it is still stored on the device.

When viewing emails, the BlackBerry software recognizes phone numbers and email addresses. When you scroll down a page, they are auto-highlighted, allowing you to email people or call them without having to type anything. Simply scroll over the name or email to highlight it, press the trackball, and bingo. Hitting the BB key opens up the options list for the emails or numbers found in your inbox.

SMS messages are threaded into a single conversation (similar to a Treo or iPhone) as long as you and the contact continue to reply to messages already sent and not type a brand new message.

New messages of any sort are easy to initiate by simply typing in the contact's name. If you begin typing a contact's name in the address field, it will auto sort your contacts in that field and let you select from that list. Same goes for SMS or MMS messages.

Speaking of files, the BlackBerry inbox lets you view most attachments, including images and Microsoft Word documents.

The Flip is also preloaded with BlackBerry Messenger, AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Yahoo and Windows Live instant messaging programs. Any way you want to get your IM on, the Flip lets you do it.

Lastly, the Flip lets you read your messages on the exterior display. When a new message arrives, you'll see a notification on the external display. Using the volume toggle keys, you can choose to open up and read your SMS and MMS messages and see how many unread emails you have.

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