The BlackBerry Torch 9800 for AT&T isn’t all-new and all-different, but it’s new and different enough. On Tuesday, Research in Motion (RIM) announced the company’s first slider-style BlackBerry, the Torch 9800, which is also the first BlackBerry with both a touch screen and hard keyboard, and the first device to run the new OS 6. We received a bit of hands-on time with the new phone.
The Torch may be primarily plastic – with some chromed highlights like the fascia bezel – but it’s high-quality and creak free. Some sliders, like the Palm Pre, show notable wiggle in their mechanism, but the Torch 9800 clicks open and closed neatly. Shut, it’s smaller face-on than an iPhone 4 – helped by the 3.2-inch screen, which is compact and bright but short on pixels in comparison to rivals – though it’s longer than the Apple smartphone when opened. Still, the balance in your hand is good, with the weight in the lower section and little feel that the smartphone might topple over while you thumb-type.
The user interface is fairly intuitive andlooks better than Android’s in my opinion. It is also familiar, if you have handled a (recent) Blackberry. I was hoping that the user interface would be smoother, but it is not, or not enough. Right now, scrolling is slower than most Android phones, and there is still some work that needs to be done on that front. The setup looks a whole lot better, I’m glad to see the text-based setup interface go.
The web browser has improved quite a bit (thanks Webkit), but it didn’t feel so fast, despite all the recent record-shattering with web benchmarks. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about, but again, it’s impossible to tell for sure before we use it in real-world conditions. At the moment, I’d say that web page compatibility has improved significantly, but overall browsing speed remains to be proven.
The Torch feels and looks very much like a BlackBerry, with the proper BlackBerry Bold-style arrangements of plastic, metal and glass; there are also BlackBerry fonts on the keys and the now-standard BlackBerry trackpad. Like a good BlackBerry, it feels rock-solid and like a premium device in the hand. But of course it also has that touch screen. The Torch’s 3.2-inch, 360-by-480 screen is a standard capacitive LCD touch screen, not that weird “click-screen” from the BlackBerry Storm that RIM seems to have finally given up on. The screen is bright and sharp, but it’s obviously behind the competition in terms of resolution.
According to RIM, the new WebKit-based Web browser speeds up data transfers by compressing data two to three times, while still providing the kind of fidelity you see on the iPhone and Android platforms. That should, in part, help make up for the phone running at HSPA 3.6 speeds rather than HSPA 7.2, and it should let AT&T users get more Web pages out of their $15/month, 200-MB data plans.
AT&T will offer the Torch 9800 for $199.99(Check out new prices and buy it from Amazon)
Check out BlackBerry Torch Hands-On video,