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BlackBerry Torch 9800
The first properly innovative phone to come out RIM in nearly two years, the BlackBerry Torch 9800 combines a Storm2-style touchscreen with a traditional BlackBerry QWERTY keypad to give users the best of both worlds. The Torch also introduces the new BlackBerry 6 operating system, which is designed to keep RIM competitive with the current crop of high-end smartphones.
In our view, RIM have been in the doldrums since the less-than-stellar launch of the original BlackBerry Storm in 2008. The Torch shows a bit more effort than some recent BlackBerry devices, and the rumours are that there's an interesting looking QWERTY clamshell phone in the works too.
At the moment, the Torch is only available to AT&T customers in the US, which is good news for AT&T, not such good news for other potential consumers. It isn't clear if there will be a version of the Torch for other networks, but we assume that there will be.
There are very few surprises when it comes to the hardware on the BlackBerry Torch, apart from the QWERTY keyboard this is really just an evolution of the Storm2. There's a 3.2" 360 x 480 pixel touchscreen display, 5 megapixel camera with VGA resolution video recording, GPS, tri-band 3G and HSDPA support for worldwide roaming and WiFi (including 802.11n as well as b and g compatibility) plus stereo Bluetooth.
The BlackBerry Torch has a media player built in plus a 3.5mm audio socket, the Torch can be synchronised with iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries. Internal storage is 4GB of built-in Flash memory, plus a 4GB card in the box giving up to 8GB in the standard sales package, and the microSD slot can cope with cards of up to 32GB.
The large 1300 mAh battery on the BlackBerry Torch gives up to 5.8 hours of talktime on 3G and 13 days standby time. Size and weight are almost identical to the Storm2 at 161 grams and 111 x 62 x 15mm. The processor is a 624 MHz unit with a useful 512MB of RAM to run applications in.
The hardware is only part of the story, and the new BlackBerry 6 operating system gives several useful features such as a customizable home screen, a much improved web browser and search function plus social networking support and a number of other functional and cosmetic improvements. BlackBerry 6 will also be available as an upgrade to Bold 9700, Bold 9650 and Pearl 3G customers.
If you are a BlackBerry fan then these changes are big news, but it is hardly going to drag customers away from their iPhones and Android devices. You can see more of the new operating system at www.blackberry.com/6.
RIM have given us a much improved handset and software platform with the BlackBerry Torch 9800, it's just a shame that it is only on AT&T for the moment. But it does have some key weaknesses - the main one is the low resolution resistive touchscreen which isn't a patch on the iPhone 4 or Motorola DROID and HTC Desire phones. And although BlackBerry keyboards are very good, we can't help but feeling that it would be much better to mount the keyboard along the long edge of the phone like Motorola does on the DROID and Milestone.
Update: The BlackBerry Torch 9800 will now be available on several carriers worldwide including O2, Orange and Rogers plus many others.
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