BlackBerry Torch 9800

Posted on August 10, 2010 by

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As a RIM partner, we’ve just received a beta of the latest handset – the Torch 9800. There is no doubt that this is an attempt to answer Apple’s dominance with the iPhone, and it is a huge step in the right direction.

Some basics first: gone is the Storm “SurePress” moving screen to be replaced by a fully multi-touch capacitive screen – pretty much like the iPhones. However, the Torch also comes with a slide out QWERTY keyboard for those like me who missed the tactile experience of typing quickly on earlier BlackBerrys. It has also got the touch sensitive track-pad together with the standard four BlackBerry buttons – answer, menu, back and hang-up).

Much more importantly, the reception is far superior to the Storm I had before. Presumably much better antenna design, but the difference in call quality and signal strength is notable.

The screen is very nice too – 480×360 with light sensor, proximity detector and accelerometer (to allow the now familiar switching from portrait to landscape).

OS6 seems fast, and comes with some new apps. The “Social Feeds” app allows you to bring together Twitter, Facebook, AIM, BlackBerry Messenger, Google Talk, MySpace, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and, if you really want, e-mail all in one stream of consciousness. It neatly allows you to post to these various social networking tools too.

Add to that a pretty decent 5MP camera, GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth and comprehensive multimedia (including DRM10 support) and you can see why this is a pretty cool piece of technology.

Battery life seems better than the Storm – mine seems to do about 48 hours of pretty intensive use (mostly data with some calls).

I have only found two niggles so far. The case that it comes with (included – a side-swipe at Apple) is great – very light weight and effective – but with it on you can’t slide the keyboard out. I don’t see an easy design solution to this, and I guess in practice it means for heavy e-mail users like me the case will be left at home.

The other issue seems to be a small software glitch which might be removed by public release (or could presumably be easily patched post release). The swipe scrolling action on certain lists (e.g. e-mails or social feeds) doesn’t track your finger accurately if you move too quickly. This isn’t a hardware limitation as other scrolling contexts work perfectly – for example scrolling within a particular e-mail.

But is it as good as the iPhone 4? For me, it is too early to say. Even though I like RIM devices, I’m sceptical about anyone’s ability to beat Apple at their UI. And this is clearly aimed directly at taking on that marketing angle. I had decided to replace my Storm with an iPhone 4 once the teething troubles were sorted, but this device has certainly stopped me in my tracks – it is now a much closer call.

Maybe a Torch and an iPad is the perfect combination…

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