When Research-in-Motion (makers of BlackBerry) tried making a touchscreen phone the first time with the BlackBerry Storm, it was plagued with lots of complaints from people. The OS was slow, the execution of the touchscreen was half hearted and the entire experience was crappy. Will their latest attempt with the touchscreen phone, the BB Torch 9800, be any better?
Iâ€™ll start off this review by admitting that Iâ€™m a touchscreen phone guy. Iâ€™ve been using touchscreen phones since Sony Ericsson P900. Iâ€™ve owned and used all iPhone models including the iPhone 4 now. I find the touchscreen UIs very natural to use regardless of the OS. The only problem that I encountered with touchscreen phones is the text input. If it’s good, then the entire experience will most probably be great for me too.
The flagship phone of BlackBerry feels like youâ€™re holding a high end phone. It’s a bit heavy and the built is rock solid. The entire phone looks elegant and very modern. The metallic-painted bezel of the phone makes this baby a bit more luxurious. The rubbery back gives the user a good grip to the phone.
Did I say that this is a slider phone too? When you slide up the 3.2â€ capacitive touchscreen, you’ll be presented with almost identical keyboard as with the BlackBerry Bold. The sliding mechanism is awesome. It’s really snappy and youâ€™d feel that this phone could last a million repetitive slides. On the screen, you’ll see the 4 regular BlackBerry buttons — the Call, BB Menu button, the back and drop call buttons. It also has the optical touchpad for navigation.
The screen of the phone is gorgeous. It’s as a good as the screen of the older iPhone models. It’s very bright and clear. It only has 480×360 screen resolution. The touchscreen is very responsive. It picks up the touch inputs really fast. The BlackBerry OS 6 does a better job at showing phone apps to its users. You can swipe up and down to show more of the apps and you can swipe to the left and right to go to your favorites and recently downloaded apps.
You can do the same thing with the optical touchpad. You can use the touchpad to better navigate the phone interface. You can actually use the entire phone like as if it’s not a touchscreen phone. The navigation is quite similar to a BlackBerry Bold if youâ€™re just using the optical touchpad. My only problem with the touchscreen is youâ€™d occasionally get stuttering when you try to scroll the screen using touch input.
The phone is equipped with a 5 megapixel camera and a bright flash at the back of the phone. The camera is not that great. Not crappy, just ok. The phone can shoot video really well. You can use the extra button on the right side of the phone as your camera button. Here’s a comparison of a similar picture taken by the 5 megapixel camera of the iPhone 4:
What I really love with the phone is its multimedia capabilities and its browser. The 3.2â€ screen can play videos really nicely. MP3 playback is without any glitch. The phone may not be the best playing multimedia but it’s very very capable. You can store thousands of songs and hours of videos on its 8GB of internal memory.
The browser is like a heaven sent feature to the BlackBerry Torch. Finally, BlackBerry it’s using a webkit-based browser. It’s the same browser used by Android and the iPhone. You can pinch and zoom on the browser. It’s as good as Android’s mobile chrome browser. It’s really good. Adding and syncing multimedia files to the phone is as easy as drag and drop. The speaker is really loud and clear. I was able to watch an entire tv episode using the speakerphone. You can also connect a 3.5â€ audio jack to the right side of the phone.
With the Torch, you have 2 options with text input. You can use the oh so great classic BlackBerry keyboard or the onscreen keyboard when the slider is down. Nothing can be more said to the physical keyboard of the Torch except for it’s simply great. The onscreen keyboard is a different story. It’s mediocre at best. You’ll miss a lot of times because the letters are a bit smaller in size. I found some delays when you type fast on it. In spite of the not-so-great on-screen keyboard, this is the reason why this phone works for me. I get the benefits of using a big touchscreen and have an awesome text input with the physical keyboard. Youâ€™ll get the best of both worlds. I remember how I used to love my Sony Ericsson P990i. It has a physical keyboard and a big touchscreen.
The battery life of this phone is great. I can last an entire day which is normal for a touchscreen phone. But if youâ€™re a heavy 3G user, this phone wonâ€™t last for more than 8 hours. Again, this is pretty normal for any 3G smartphone. I had a great experience making calls. It’s very clear.
One of the awesome new features of the phone is its universal search app/button. It finds stuff really fast. Another feature on this phone is the Social Feeds. It’s an app where you can connect all your social feeds like Facebook, Twitter, IM accounts and your BBM. My experience with the Social Feed is a mixed bag. If youâ€™re the type of person that only consumes information, then this is the greatest thing on earth. Youâ€™ll get a single stream of information from different feeds.
But if youâ€™re the kind of person who replies to entries or posts, then you wonâ€™t be using this feature. When you open a post and you plan to reply to it, the app will direct you the â€œrealâ€ app. So for example, you need to reply to one tweet, once you click the tweet from the stream, you’ll be directed the Twitter app and do your replies from there. It’s not really intuitive. The setting up of the email, wifi, twitter, Facebook accounts and IMs are a breeze. Never got a single issue. As usual, the BBM on this phone is great.
The handset has been selling for around Php28,000 to Php30,000 in the grey market although officially, you can get them straight from the carriers. Just remember that you also need BIS data connection to take advantage of all the features of the phone.
I really think this is the best BlackBerry phone has ever made. I really love this phone for the reasons that it has one of the best mobile phone keyboard on earth and it’s also a touchscreen phone. The keyboard doesnâ€™t takes up the screen estate. If youâ€™re a BlackBerry user, you’ll definitely love this phone. But if you donâ€™t like bulky and heavy phone, this one is not for you. If youâ€™re looking for a smartphone today, I can recommend getting this one. This can easily compete with the Androids and the iPhones.
BlackBerry Torch 9800 specifications:
3.2â€³ display @ 360Ã—480 pixels
512MB RAM, 512MB ROM
4GB storage (up to 32GB via microSD, 4GB included)
3G @ 384Kbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
5MP autofocus camera w/ LED flash + video
BlackBerry OS 6.0
GPS w/ a-GPS support
1300mAh Li-Ion battery
Editor’s Note: Dale is a reviews & special assignments contributor for YugaTech. The review had some minor revisions from me. You can follow him on Twitter @dalekins. – Yuga