RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 (preview)
A redesigned phone and BlackBerry OS could put RIM back in the game
- Lightweight, BlackBerry fans should warm to the keyboard
- Display isn't as impressive as many high-end consumer smartphones
For business users who want something that is lightweight and practical but includes the multimedia and apps featured in the newest generation of mobile devices, the BlackBerry Torch 9800 could be their next smartphone. The emphasis here is on access to information; because the display is smaller and the resolution less powerful than most consumer devices out there, this can't compete with the more multimedia-centric consumer smartphones. But it should offer enough flexibility and ease of use to keep most BlackBerry users from leaving the fold.
When you have a product that has been successful for several years, but has fallen somewhat behind the times, it can be difficult to figure out what to change and what to leave alone.
With its new BlackBerry Torch 9800 smartphone, RIM seems to have navigated this line successfully. While it's unlikely that the Torch will draw consumers away from their iPhones and Android devices, at least BlackBerry users won't be completely left in the dust.
RIM introduced its new BlackBerry today in a joint press event with AT&T in New York. Mike Lazaridis, president and co-chief executive officer for RIM, talked a bit about how the company came out with its first BlackBerry in 1999 -- and then produced the new product.
Small and solid
After the formal presentation, I got some actual hands-on time with the Torch.
The new BlackBerry smartphone offers a 3.2-in., 480 x 360 resolution touch display. While it's clear and fairly sharp, the display isn't really comparable to the leading consumer smartphones -- for example, the iPhone 4's 3.5-in. display boasts a 960 x 640 resolution, while the Droid X has an even larger 4.3-in. display with a resolution of 854 x 480.
On the other hand, the unit weighs 5.7 oz., about the same weight as the Droid X, and is, at 2.4 x .57 x 4.4 in., about the same size as the iPhone 4. I found it very comfortable to handle and use, and it is small enough to drop into a shirt pocket without a second thought.
The phone features a slide-out vertical keyboard -- bringing it to a length of 5.8 in. when open -- that still has the rounded look and small but well-engineered keys typical of BlackBerry devices. Personally, I found the keys a little too tiny for comfort, but as is typical of BlackBerrys, I was able to "thumb-type" short messages with relative ease. Current BlackBerry users should be pleased.
The phone also includes four hard keys, including one to begin and one to end a call -- which, as a Droid user who only has access to virtual buttons, I've often wished for. Other features include a 5-megapixel camera, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi along with 3G broadband, a 4GB microSD Flash card, 512MB RAM and 4GB built-in storage.
Introducing BlackBerry 6
The new BlackBerry 6 OS is elegant and simple to use and understand. All your apps reside on a "tray" that can be raised or lowered over your home screen. Your main apps are represented by icons on the home screen (you can also have icons for individual contacts and bookmarks). You swipe left and right to see other screens, including Favorites and Recent (for recently used apps).
One of the new OS features that RIM emphasized at the launch event is the new universal search. Just start typing, and the Torch will look for apps and information both on and off your phone that might be a fit. For example, I tried typing "weather" and got icons for a weather application and links to several weather-related Web sites. I started typing the name "Michael" and by the third letter, I was seeing relevant news items and contact names.
Another feature that was pumped up by company executives, and really did work nicely when I tried it, is the universal inbox. All e-mail, social network messages, etc. are visible on one display -- touch on a specific message, and it opens it in the application pertinent to that message. Hit the back key, and you're back in the inbox. Swipe sideways, and you have access to your RSS feeds.
According to RIM, the phone has full multitasking so that, for example, music downloads can occur in the background while you're in the browser or working in other parts of the OS.
No self-respecting smartphone today would dare to show its face without some kind of apps store. In this case, additional apps can be obtained using BlackBerry App World, which is accessible through an icon on your home screen.
Third-party developers are being given APIs that will allow users try apps before they buy them, purchase subscriptions, buy different levels (for, say, games) or include ads within the application.
The bottom line
For business users who want something lightweight and practical, but with the multimedia and apps featured in the newest generation of mobile devices, the BlackBerry Torch 9800 could be their next smartphone. The emphasis here is on access to information; because the display is smaller and the resolution less powerful than most consumer devices out there, this can't compete with the more multimedia-centric consumer smartphones. But it should offer enough flexibility and ease-of-use to keep most BlackBerry users from leaving the fold.
Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld. When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes; you can also follow her on Twitter (@BarbaraKrasnoff).
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Subaru XV 2017 review
- 2 Samsung 2017 QLED Q7 TV: Full, in-depth review
- 3 Kogan Atlas UltraSlim Pro laptop: full, in-depth review
- 4 Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen AM4 motherboard review
- 5 Kogan curved 4K UHD 55-inch LED LCD TV review
Latest News Articles
- Fake heads and robot probes: testing smartphones prior to launch
- Rumor suggests the Note8 will be a bigger S8+ that adds a missing feature
- Xiaomi's Mi6 has the Galaxy S7’s looks, the S8’s power, and iPhone 7’s camera for half the price
- Samsung DeX turns your Galaxy S8 into a shockingly good desktop PC
- Find My iPhone helps nab a thief at Coachella with 100 phones in his backpack
PCW Evaluation Team
A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.
I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.
As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
- Samsung Galaxy S8 phone: full, in-depth review
- Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU Australian review
- Mass Effect Andromeda review: One for the fans
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- FTFull Stack DeveloperNSW
- FTTest AnalystACT
- FTLevel 2/ 3 Systems AdministratorVIC
- CCNetworks Engineer - SecurityVIC
- FTProduct Manager (IT Clinical Systems) - Permanent - Syd, Melb or BrisbNSW
- FTSolution Architect - NetworksVIC
- CCSecurity ConsultantVIC
- FTTechnical WriterACT
- FTNetwork EngineerSA
- FTService Delivery ManagerNSW
- CCSoftware ManagerVIC
- CCNetwork Architect - SecurityVIC
- CCVDI EngineerACT
- FTCRM Technical Specialist (Oracle Eloqua)SA
- FTCampaign ManagerNSW
- FTSystem Analyst - IntegrationQLD
- CCProject Manager - DigitalisationQLD
- FTSenior Project Manager - (Customer Platforms)NSW
- CCProject Manager - Security - TelcoVIC
- TPBusiness AnalystQLD
- TPService Desk OperatorQLD
- CCServer SOE EngineerACT
- TPAutomation TesterQLD
- TPTesting SpecialistQLD