For years RIM has targeted the business market, and has been very successful in doing so. Ever since smartphone technology began trickling into the consumer market, weíve been waiting for RIMís response. Finally, the companyís ready to out its first elite consumer orientated offering, the BlackBerry Torch. We know from previous experience that the average consumer is hard to please, even more so during the aftermath of the iPhone 4, so will the Torch become BlackBerryís leading light or will it simply burn itself out? Letís take a closer look.
Appearance is everything, and doesnít RIM know it. The Blackberry Torch has a very similar chassis to the rest of the BlackBerry line up, closer inspection will reveal it does in fact sport a brand new slider form factor, a company first might we add. Discreetly slotted behind that capacitive touchscreen is a full sliding QWERTY keyboard. So, the obvious difference is the physical and virtual action thatís on tap, but sit the Torch next to the Bold or Curve and itís easy to see where RIMís going with this. Despite packing a holding bay for its pull out pad, the Torch is remarkably thin, coming in at a mere 0.01inch thicker than the Bold. Stylistically, itís not all that dissimilar to the Bold either, itís got that metal-like surround (which is actually plastic, but it looks good so why grumble?). The front real estate is pretty much covered by the 3.2Ē capacitive touch display, leaving a little extra room for the familiar BlackBerry Call, Menu, Back and End buttons. It also packs the increasingly essential optical trackpad, perfect for speedy navigation. If, however your fingers start feeling a little cramped then simply slide the screen up to get on the qwerty action. The slide mechanism is near invisible and the keyboard layout is almost identical to, yep youíve guessed it the Bold 9700, providing more than enough room to text freely and swiftly. Thereís no doubt in our minds that the BlackBerry Torch is a very attractive package for both socialites and business types who want quick communication in a compact case.
The BlackBerry Torch marks a few firsts for RIM, weíve already mentioned the form factor, next up is the operating system, jumping straight from Blackberry OS 5 to version 6. If this is your first BlackBerry encounter then chances are OS 6 wonít seem all that different to alternative offerings, but for the BlackBerry regulars this upgrade means big changes, finally RIM has dragged itís proprietary OSí sorry butt kicking and screaming into the premier league, making it a little more fun for those regular non-business folk to use. The overall experience is far more refined, RIM has dusted down the UI and done a spit and polish job across the whole OS. Icon imagery and text has been cleaned up, providing a seamless experience across all menus, itís surprising what a quick touch up can do! The menus are far more inviting, marking the switch from commercial to consumer use. The homescreen is where a lot of improvements have been made, previous BlackBerry screens provided a static shot of your favourite apps and notifications. The Torch however, changes all this, in a slightly Androidian move thereís a handy pull up tray that slides from the bottom of the screen, allowing quick access to the most important apps and what not. Keeping quick access and interactivity firmly at the forefront of its campaign the Torch has a permanent notification bar at the top of the screen, housing a number of updates telling you anything from messages, emails, social network links, calendar alerts and well all those important things.
A standout feature of Blackberry OS 6 is without doubt the Universal Search function. It pretty much does what it says, allowing you to hunt down any and every piece of information youíve got on your phone. Simply type whatever it is that youíre looking for, whether itís a message, contact, app, game, music, absolutely anythingÖ and itíll find it. Itís a fantastic tool for anyone who knows that theyíll be using all 4GB of internal memory and stands a good chance of abusing the 32GB thatís available via MicroSD card too.
RIMís entire business model is based around communication, providing a unique experience that only an advanced smartphone can. The BlackBerry Torch has all the usual connectivity options onboard from 2G, 3G, Bluetooth and WiFi through to an advanced Webkit browser and variety of messaging options. There are two different mail boxes onboard, great for those uber organised types, as well as a hub to catch all your social network feeds, but be warned if youíre an avid socialite it can be difficult to remember what youíve sent where, leaving you with various messaging options to pick through to find the right thing Ė Oh is that the Universal Search function I hear calling?
Finally, no smartphone would stand a chance in the consumer market without a decent media set. Here comes another first for RIM, the Torch is the only BlackBerry handset to pack a 5megapixel snapper. Not only that but itís got a load of advanced features to enhance the experience, from geotagging and LED flash to autofocus, image stabilisation and video recording, not bad BlackBerry not bad at all. Thereís also the usual hoard of goodies, BlackBerry maps, document editor, a media and video player and as mentioned earlier vastly improved Webkit browser.
Being the first to do anything is always daunting however, the BlackBerry Torch handles the challenge well. Itís definitely going to do well for RIM, which has been lacking a consumer friendly, feature fuelled high end BlackBerry handset. Whether it can hold its own against the big boys remains to be seen, either way, weíre soldÖ BlackBerry Torch, lead the way!