Blackberry Torch 9800 phone launched; price $ 199 on contract

Tuesday, August 3, 2010, 17:55 by Tech Correspondent

Blackberry Torch 9800, the latest smartphone from Research In Motion (RIM) has been officially launched in New York City.

blackberry torch 9800 photo

Photo: Blackberry Torch 9800

The capacitive touchscreen sporting Blackberry Torch 9800 is the first Blackberry with a real touchscreen.

As always, we have a bunch of Blackberry Torch photos for you here. A photo is worth some 250 words in our opinion!

The big news, of course, the Torch is the first device on offer where Blackberry 6 OS does office duties. Initial response seems positive, and journalists who have handled the Blackberry Torch 9800 have reported that things are overall a helluva lot better here. Update: More reports are coming in, and more and more tech journalists seem unhappy about the processor speed and the overall sophistication of Blackberry 6 OS.

blackberry torch 9800 virtual keypad photo

Photo: Blackberry Torch 9800 virtual keypad

The Torch 9800 has a touchscreen alright, but some were disappointed by the resolution of the screen.  480×360 resolution on a 3.2 inch capacitive, multi-touch touchscreen is a criminal waste, in our opinion. Blackberry users are businessmen and executives often, and would they want to be seen with a phone with a screen that compares so badly against the latest iPhone 4 with its Retina display? We do not know. Perhaps businessmen do not care about that. A resolution of 800×480 has become standard on smartphones now, and we feel RIM has not done enough here.

Apart from that, so far, everything else looks fine and dandy. The Blackberry Torch 9800 has a new Webkit based browser, which means that the browsing experience – which was always pathetic on a Blackberry – can only get better. Not just that – Webkit means you also get HTML5 compatibility. Webkit browsers can handle Adobe Flash, but at this point, we do not know if Farmville will run on the Blackberry Torch 9800.

blackberry torch photo

Photo: Social media integration on the Blackberry Torch 9800

The Blackberry Torch has a slider keypad. Meaning, it looks like a full touchscreen phone – and a very well-built one – but there is a slim keypad that slides out if you need it. Blackberry users are used to quickly banging out emails on the keypads, and touchscreens are not exactly conducive to quick typing of emails or text messages. You also have a vrtual keypad on the Blackberry Torch, if that is what you prefer. There is the standard optical trackpad too, plus the familiar Blackberry buttons. Aregular Blackberry user will feel instantly at home with the Blackberry Torch 9800.

If you ignore the low resolution screen, there are a bunch of goodies.  A 5 megapixel camera is not top-of-the-line, but it features an image stabiliser – something that few phone cameras have, and should help quick photos turn out a lot better. A good 2 MP camera is enough for viewing any photos on the screen anyyay. The processor is not the standard 1 GHz one you find in all smartphones today but a 624 MHz one. 512 MB of RAM will keep things moving fast enough. Photos taken by the Blackberry Torch 9800 are automatically geotagged thanks to some nice integration with the GPS.

Blackberry Torch 9800 price

The Blackberry Torch comes with a price tag of $199 with a two-year AT&T contract in the United States. Telus willbe carrier of choice in Canada. There was no information available on the possible price tag of the Blackberry Torch without a contract. In fact, we do not know if the phone will even be available without a contract.

Blackberry Torch and social networking features

Just like what the Palm Pre tried to do, the Blackberry Torch 9800 (or is it Blackberry 6 OS?) brings in all your social networking messages, statuses, updates and comments into a single feed – and it all goes into your inbox. If implemented well, this could be a killer feature. WebOS tried to do something similar, and it was well-appreciated.

Reports from Canadian news websites seem to indicate that the Blackberry Torch 9800 will support carrier billing which will detail cost of apps on the bill. In Canada, users can watch TV programs using Prime Time 2Go. We do not know if this is available in the US however.

Built in storage memory is 4 GB, and can be expanded up to 32 GB via the MicroSD / SDHC card slot.

Tethering, something the iPhone 4 does not support (or for that matter, any iPhone) is an extra feature that might make some users decide to buy a Blackberry Torch. Also, unlike the iPhone, the battery is very much removable. You can also sync the Blackberry Torch using Wi-Fi – a defintie plus.

The BlackBerry 6 OS would be standard on future Blackberry devices. Some existing Blackberry models would be able to get an upgrade to the new OS, but this would be dependent on their carriers.

So is the Blackberry Torch 9800 enough to hold off the iPhone 4 onslaught and the army of Android phones which seem to keep getting better every day?

Mostly, we think. Blackberry has not had a phone that its users thought were amazing in a long time. recent surveys seemed to indicate that many Blackberry users were seriously tempted to buy an Android phone or an iPhone. If you ignore the low-res touchscreen – there is very little that looks inadequate on the Blackberry Torch. There is the solid build quality, there is the secure communications, and now a touchscreen and a keypad, with a clearly faster OS on faster hardware. If you have always loved Blackberrys, perhaps you need look no further.

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