BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review and Test

By Jonathan Spira on 12 August 2010
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In the business world, the BlackBerry is synonymous with smart smartphones.  Millions of knowledge workers worldwide rely on BlackBerry devices for e-mail and texting, not to mention phone calls.  Although it still holds a dominant position in the many parts of the globe, companies are starting to look at alternatives, most notably the Apple iPhone and phones that run on the Google Android operating system.

Indeed, Research in Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry, hasn’t had it easy in recent years.   Its first two touchscreen devices, the Storm and the Storm II, met with lukewarm success at best.  And a recent Nielsen survey revealed that only 42% of BlackBerry users want their next phone to be a BlackBerry.  This figure stands in stark contrast to the 89% of iPhone owners (not to mention the 71% of Android owners) who plan to remain loyal.

To counter these trends, RIM went back to the drawing board. The biggest problem with the Storm line of smartphones was that it lacked a physical keyboard, traditionally a strong point for a BlackBerry.  So the designers and engineers in Waterloo found a way to bridge both worlds.  The result: the new BlackBerry Torch 9800.

The Torch heralds many firsts for the BlackBerry lineup.  It is the first BlackBerry with a slide-out keyboard and the first to support typing on a physical keyboard or an onscreen virtual keyboard.  It’s also the first to combine a touchscreen with a physical keyboard.

It’s also the first to use the new BlackBerry operating system, BlackBerry 6.  The new OS, which will be available on all future models and as an upgrade for several of the newer models, is a major advance in features and functionality.  Simply put, it simplifies what could quickly become a very cluttered home screen while adding key features including multitouch gestures and universal search.

I’ve been testing the Torch with BlackBerry 6 and this is definitely not your father’s BlackBerry.  The first thing I noticed (besides the large touchscreen itself) was the way BlackBerry 6 provides separate screens you can customize.  You can place icons on the Favorites screen but also quickly scroll to separate screens for frequently-used functions, contacts, media, and apps.  It was child’s play to place a few Web sites and several frequent contacts on the Favorites page, and I found this to be a very useful feature.   Click here to continue to Page 2.

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