Hands-on with the RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800

Hands-on with the RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800
With one single show, RIM showcased what they needed to bring to the table in order to capture the mind share that's been completely overtaken by the the army of Android devices and even Apple's little pride and joy. Even though there was some buzz surrounding the long rumored BlackBerry Slider, the press event held in New York where it was introduced to the world lacked that sensational atmosphere seen by other competing companies. First up on stage was AT&T's very own Ralph de la Vega who ushered in the first glimpse of the highly anticipated BlackBerry Torch 9800. Aside from mentioning all of the goodies that AT&T has accomplished, he went on to give his speech on their unique partnership with RIM. From there, RIM's co-CEO Mike Lazaridis was introduced to the stage where he began to talk about the the new platform and some of the new features accompanying it, however, you can sense that lack of intrigue as the press event moved forward. Other RIM executives came on stage to preview additional new features that are going to be seen on BlackBerry OS 6, but as time kept on moving by, it was beginning to become transparent that RIM is just finally getting into the same space as its competitors – or maybe slightly below. You can check out and read all of the things that unfolded in our live coverage here.

Now it's time to get into the meat as we were able to finally get an opportunity to check out the long speculated BlackBerry Torch 9800. This isn't following in the same footsteps like its other brothers and sisters since it employs a totally new form factor that we haven't traditionally seen come out from RIM's camp. The smartphone itself is rather normal sized and didn't feel or look any larger than RIM's current BlackBerry Bold 9650, though, its construction might not be as solid as we would've preferred it to be. It has plenty of chrome borders outlining the handset – which radiates your ordinary appeal seen from other previous handsets. Additionally, some rubber feeling material used on the sides and rear subtly provides that rugged feeling. Not heavy at all, it feels normal sized and we didn't think of it to be bulky at all, but rather, we weren't too blown away by it – especially when it follows similarly to previous devices. As for the physical QWERTY keyboard, we found it to be decent for your normal usage, but the one employed on the BlackBerry Bold 9650 feels more solid with a better response. Fortunately, the sliding mechanism felt pretty tight and we didn't find it to wiggle as much at its hinge – so no worries when you constantly open and close it. Overall, there's nothing innovative found on design of the Torch 9800 which sadly makes it your typical BlackBerry handset.

The BlackBerry Bold 9000 was able to be a big game changer for RIM as it managed to play host to the modern day BlackBerry OS which we've been accustomed to using for the last couple of years. However, BlackBerry OS 6 was also being positioned as the next big thing out of RIM's camp which looked from previous leaks to focus a lot on the everyday consumer – plus keeping in mind its vast core business users. Visually, BlackBerry OS 6 running on the Torch 9800 didn't scream anything out of the ordinary. Sure it has some updated visuals and a WebKit based browser to bring it into competition amongst the heavy hitters in the game, but sadly it also lacks that unique charisma to make it a compelling competitor. The notifications system received an overhaul now that the platform integrates social networking into the mix – so you'll always be in the loop of things with your friends. The platform was pretty responsive in almost every aspect we tested, but it feels like RIM is only catching up to the innovation seen with rival platforms like iOS and Android. When we dove further down to some of the core apps, we found the experience to be somewhat unchanged in functionality, but it did receive a makeover – such as the music player. Although we were able to briefly check out the WebKit browser running through Wi-Fi, its performance also didn't scream anything worthy enough to mention – instead, it was merely satisfactory.

In the end, is BlackBerry OS 6 a game changer for RIM? Not really. Instead, they've finally been able to slightly meet the level of acceptance for most consumers, but it's still not quite as compelling as it should be. If they were able to release this two years ago, beating everyone to the punch, it would've been highly touted as one of the supreme mobile platforms out there. Alas, the BlackBerry Torch 9800 is more of the same out of RIM's camp – but now it sports a new flavor with its portrait slider form factor. When we look back at it, the original BlackBerry Storm managed to captivate consumers more with it's completely non-traditional form, but the Torch 9800 sorely lacks that same appeal – we'll find out come August 12th if this handset can win over the hearts and minds of consumers.

RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 Specifications



1. ace1122

Posts: 237; Member since: Mar 23, 2009

Seems like a really nice blackberry. And if you're a big blackberry fan you may love it but its not quite in the same league as android or apple.

2. clevername

Posts: 1436; Member since: Jul 11, 2008

Well I doubt it will steal ios or android users but I think a significantly fewer number of AT&T BB users will upgrade to this instead of going to ios or android. Probably steal some symbian and windows users as well. And I see a slightly higher percent of first time smartphone owners coming to this as well. Especially with a slider form factor that's familiar to a lot of non smartphone users. In short great job on an entry level consumer BB.

3. artz1986

Posts: 453; Member since: Mar 11, 2009

I'm still pretty confused to what we were expecting out of RIM when it comes to OS6. The OS looks decent enough to keep consumers happy. Innovation isn't there, but what type of innovation were you guys looking for? Of course this was RIM catching up, and thank God they caught up. Sometimes I wonder if we in the tech world use the word 'innovation' a bit too loosely, like how everyone throws the word 'love' around. There really hasn't been any true innovations since Android 2.1, and even then, the only thing innovative about 2.1 is HTC's Sense Leap View. Everything else is slight modifications and improvements. The only major innovative introductions in the last decade has been the first gen iPhone and apples approach to pushing apps, the easy to mod OS that is Android, and Web OS' approach to app switching. That's it. Hopefully RIM can get better app integration w/ this OS...

7. DonkeyPunched

Posts: 321; Member since: Jan 10, 2010

I think that when people mean innovation, they mean something newer, or something better, than what we currently have. The iOS and Android platform have been out for a while now, and considering this new OS6 is coming out now, it doesn't seem to have anything that is eye catching, which is something we all want. In other words, we expected OS6 to be a chance for Blackberry to prove themselves they have a reason to continue in the phone wars, kind of like what Windows 7 is doing. This interface looks pretty much just like the old one did except with a little gloss. It could/will probably be a good platform, but it honestly doesn't have anything that I couldn't pick up from an iPhone or Android phone right now. :\ I think this can apply to anyone, not just us techies who want new cooler features in every update. I'm actually kinda disappointed as well as I don't see any reason for me to want to move over to this Blackberry (currently on a Nexus).

4. jenna_23

Posts: 145; Member since: Apr 02, 2010

looks like a good phone but on a crappy network also another thing that sucks is that u will not get unlimited internet browsing with att's new data plans. ..on my bold 9700 i always use more than 2gb a month because i listen to whole music albums wit this app called thumplay music and listen to wunderradio for hours at the office because i get bored also because the wi-fi is slow i have use 3G because its faster good thing im on an unlimited plan so it doesnt matter but everytime i check my account i usually always use more than 2gb a month easily so for new customers its gunna suck big time espeacially if they use it a lot like i do also i hope they fix the internet browsing on it because i have the bold 9700 and the web broswing on it sucks because it never loads web pages correctly hopefully they fix that on this new blackberry so i had to install opera browser on it and it works muuch better..

5. jacky_luvsjrod

Posts: 53; Member since: May 26, 2010

i agree good phone but at&t's new plans suck big time.. me too i usually use more thaN 2gb a month on my bold but im also on an unlimited plan so it dont matter but yea for new customers that use a lot of data its gunna suck because wi-fi is not available everywere and besides in the places were wi-fi is free like mcdonalds n starbucks i used it before and its slooow because since its free a lot of people are using it so your better off using 3G .

24. bucky

Posts: 3794; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

i would pay a premium fee to make sure im not on cdma. In Canada, everyone was forced to move away from cdma. Seems like you guys dont have enough options on the gsm side of things in the states.

6. tiolawa

Posts: 115; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

This device should have been launched a year ago then its specs might warrant 199.99 on contract. RIM is on its way out too little to late if you ask me. The technical specs are way to low end, if this is the best RIM can do then we will soon see them having the same fate as Palm.

8. ace1122

Posts: 237; Member since: Mar 23, 2009

What do you mean by "same fate as palm"? Merging with another company?

9. tiolawa

Posts: 115; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

Meaning becoming so devalued that it has to get bought out to stay alive.

15. ace1122

Posts: 237; Member since: Mar 23, 2009

It didn't get bought out. Do you not understand the term of "merger"?

16. panacea224

Posts: 19; Member since: Dec 20, 2008

Actually palm didn't merge with HP, it was bought by HP.

17. formerpalmenthusiast unregistered

Ummm...HP and Palm is *not* a merger. Companies with a $109B market cap do not "merge" with a company they pay $1.2B for. It's called Wikipedia... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palm,_Inc. "On April 28, 2010, HP announced that it had agreed to acquire Palm for $1.2 billion.[4] The deal was completed on July 1, 2010. The Palm global business unit will be responsible for webOS software development and webOS based hardware products, from a robust smartphone roadmap to future slate PCs and netbooks." [end of smackdown] Now I'll admit that I haven't done a lick of research on what RIM's revenue split is like between businesses and consumers, but I do know this much: RIM got to where they are by arming businesses with functional, useful, *manageable* devices. Android, particularly with the Motorola/Good play, has a real chance to overtake RIM if they get a channel program or direct salesforce that is specifically designed to get BlackBerry. The Good solution - meaning the competition to the all-powerful BES in the enterprise - is far less mature than the RIM equivalent. They've never been market leaders in terms of sexy features or even cool devices. Remember those blueberry devices (6xxx?) They were clunky and ugly, and compared to the Treo you could buy, they were a joke from a feature standpoint. But you know what? They WORKED. Phone calls were audible (what a novel concept!) You got your email, you got your calendar, and you got your contacts, without a cable. That was, and remains - a BIG deal. Microsoft can't even do it properly, and they're the only ones that own the whole thing (Exchange & Windows Mobile) end to end! Yes, the BB browser still sucks. Yes, it took them approximately forever to figure out that people needed threaded SMS and BBM conversations. I still dont understand why RIM really needs to route every message that gets delivered to every blackberry in the universe through their network. It took me a long time to get over the loss of my Treo touchscreens (I had em all) - but the optical trackpad is pretty decent. And the Storm? Well, that was just a disaster. But when you really think about the number of hiccups RIM has had when it comes to the *most* important smartphone features, the RIM/BB solution is bulletproof in comparison to peer equivalents. And that, people, absolutely includes BATTERY LIFE. I will be quite curious to see if the 9800 can survive more than 24 hours with heavy use without a recharge. I get about 36-40 hours out of my 9650, even with wifi. I am quite curious to see how this plays out. I hear so much about the impending demise of RIM - and while I would agree that they are behind in terms of consumer features, their focus on the enterprise is unmatched - and their existing penetration guarantees, (IMO) for another year or two, that there will be lots and lots of apps for BlackBerry, especially anything that connects to common enterprise systems (CRM, Doc Mgmt, Oh, and in case you were wondering, according to Google Finance today, RIM's market cap is just under $30B. Pretty impressive considering how narrow the business is (again, IMO). trading very near its 52 week low, actually...perhaps I'll pick up a few shares. :-)

10. Not a fanatic unregistered

Doesn't look like a great improvement over previous models but more like what the Storm should have been - touch + BB's qwerty keyboard. Thanks for the great video, although it is kinda noisy there..

11. som

Posts: 768; Member since: Nov 10, 2009

RIM smartphone Torch is not fancy and strong like iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S with glass touchscreen scratch resistant and only a few 1000s Apps is no match to Android and iPhone Apps. RIM is alone fighter in current smartphones battle, good luck to RIM

12. AndrweD unregistered

I like blackberry because the fact that they make simple utilitarian phones. I use it for making phone calls, email, calendar, Google maps, and the occasional tweet or status update. While the more powerful iPhone and Android platforms appeal to many people - some of us like our non-flashy, non-media centric, old-fashioned physical keyboard phones.

13. cornerofthemoon

Posts: 620; Member since: Apr 20, 2010

As a current owner of a Blackberry Curve, all I have to say about the Torch and OS6 is "Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz". I'm interested to see how Windows Phone 7 pans out and what HP has cooking with WebOS, though, I'll probably stick with RIM in the final analysis as I have invested quite a bit of $$$ in apps over the years.

14. twashington4

Posts: 81; Member since: May 24, 2010

Blackberry owners waiting for a touchscreen and physical qwerty combination will love this phone. It will still sell well. Unfortunately, it's only on AT&T right now which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. My Blackberry Tour was a great phone. I just tired of the small screen and I browse the web alot. Their app selection wasn't that great either, but those are things that I cared about, so I switched to Android. People with other preferences like texting and corporate email will still buy Blackberries. Yeah, this phone is not the powerhouse that the current Android phones are, but it probably doesn't need to be to satisfy its audience. Anyway...my two cents.

22. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

There are more blackberries in use with AT&T than other network in the AMERICAS, so , yeah, it makes perfect sense. BB BOLD was huge with AT&T....this phone will do very well. There are more phones out there besides ANDROID and iphone....

18. indirectagent

Posts: 7; Member since: Mar 22, 2010

Forget about the specs, this phone is UGLY! Blackberry needs to make an all touch screen phone, that looks attractive, something that is a hell of a lot better then the storm, something that can compete with the droids and iphone. If they can't do that they are doomed! Eveuntually these blackberry fanatics are going to realize the inevitable....Blackberry's are a thing of the past, just like palm!

19. phonedemocracy

Posts: 98; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

Okay, so I'm not super impressed with this Blackberry. But if they make a Blackberry that can last 24+ without a charge, I'm game. Business users look for functionality and reliability. Hard to charge sometimes when you're traveling.

21. heyhey unregistered

24 hours? Mine lasts 2-4 days on a charge depending on how much I use it. Try the app called AutoStandby.

20. Stall unregistered

I hate when people use wikipedia to gather any sort of credible information. It's so trite.

23. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

good point, since wikipedia is not always official but more convenient.

25. robert pula unregistered

blackberry 9800 sucks as never one i had before. pure reason why i am switching to android is this phone, so many bugs, so fast battery drain ... before i was curve 9500 and it was an excellent phone , stable, long battery life , no bugs ,never had problems. i am sorry for each cent i waste on this phone , now i am selling it , hope there will be some fool to buy it. probably the worst bb model of of the times. apps are expensive, GOING TO ANDROID , AS SOON AS POSSIBLE samsung with physical keyboard

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