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BlackBerry Torch 9800 - Software and Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly



Our Score:


Thankfully these days software is more important than hardware and RIM has made major steps with BlackBerry OS 6. Style and swagger has never been the main selling point in buying a BlackBerry, but now it does have a visual polish which eclipses Android - even if webOS and iOS designers won't be having sleepless nights. Welcome changes include a fully customisable home screen with multiple views based on content type (All, Favourites, Downloads, Media, etc.), fewer menus, new icons, slick transitional animations, and a media player which no longer feels like an afterthought - complete with Coverflow-style album art. Media syncing can also be done via drag and drop, iTunes or even over WiFi.

As for RIM's first attempt to implement multi-touch, it has both hits and misses. As contact is made with the screen initial sensitivity is good, but the reaction to pinching and pulling to zoom doesn't feel natural. By the time your fingers have left the screen you'll typically find what you are left with has either zoomed too far or not far enough. Adjustments can be made in settings, but despite a lot of fiddling it never felt as easy as Android or as smooth as WebOS or iOS. Hopefully future software updates will bring improvements. At least SurePress is nowhere to be seen, though the basic virtual keyboard is cramped and doesn't make the best use of its context sensitive abilities meaning most BlackBerry addicts will likely stick with the physical Qwerty.

One major plus point for BlackBerry OS 6, however, is the introduction of Universal search. Like the Palm Pre, just slide out the physical keyboard and start typing. Apps, music, contacts, notes and emails are all checked and can be filtered in or out via user preferences. Operation is fast and while most mobile OSes have this functionality already it is easily as good as the competition.

Less successful is the long awaited Webkit browser. Yes it finally brings desktop quality web page rendering to the BlackBerry platform and yes it is a vast improvement on what went before, but both Flash and HTML5 video support is missing. The limited horsepower in the Torch means complex pages are slow to render and zoom (via multi-touch) as well when compared to Android or iOS. Like much of BlackBerry OS 6, it may be the best RIM has done to date, but it doesn't close any major gaps on the competition.

That said what RIM continues to excel at are core elements of the phone: call quality (sharp and clear), BlackBerry Email and Messenger. For many these are the most important aspects of buying a RIM handset and from that perspective the Torch will satisfy. Then again those who have yet to pin their colours to the good ship BlackBerry are unlikely to find them strong enough reasons to convert.


The BlackBerry Torch symbolises RIM's attempt to move into a new era. A combination of new form factor and overhauled OS suggest it is keen to prove it can keep pace with the breakneck momentum behind Android and iOS adoption. The problem is while some lessons have been learnt others are painfully ignored and the age-old BlackBerry office functionality remains the primary pulling point. Consequently the Torch is an odd beast: potentially too radical for the boardroom yet unappealing to the high street. I still expect great things from RIM, but the Torch isn't it.

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October 25, 2010, 2:18 pm

Its not a critism but this seems a surprisingly short review for what was arguably RIM's most talked about phone, their first real fightback against the iPhone? Is that perhaps a reflection on how "meh" the phone seems to be from what has been written comared to Android/web os/iOS?

Im disappointed if the Torch isnt that great, I have always been impressed with work blackberrys, and also recently I quite like RIM's plans for their "playbook" tablet and how your blackberry and tablet would intereact. Also their Blackberry Messaging service would be a godsend for me with my family and friends spread out across the world, however I am an Apple iPhone user who is desperatly trying to find a viable alternative to iOS and the iPhone hardware, especially since ive bought a few things in iOS that I would have to ditch/buy again if I switched, and currently nothing on Android tempts me to make the switch so far and the webOS hardware Palm/HP is putting out isnt tempting me at all! I had hoped RIM would be that alternative but it seems I will have to keep on waiting :-(


October 25, 2010, 3:32 pm

@Stelph - it's nowhere near good enough, neither is BlackBerry OS 6 right now. It's not a serious competitor sadly and initial sales figures are also showing that. I'm sure RIM can and will do better.

Hamish Campbell

October 25, 2010, 3:50 pm

Why don't they just stick their OS on an HTC device?


October 25, 2010, 4:31 pm


I wish Palm would do that. I'd love to have WebOS.


Have you tried WhatsApp for your IM needs? Works across iOS, RIM, Symbian and Android.


October 25, 2010, 5:06 pm

@Gorden - Thanks, I had assumed that was the case, shame but maybe Blackberry OS 7 will be better!

@rav - Wasnt aware of that, thanks! Although the only issue I can see with WhatsApp is you still require a data connection when using it, what appeals with BBM is (as I understand it) its free to use, even when you are overseas where as I image WhatsApp would be expensive if you were travelling!


October 25, 2010, 5:39 pm


Didn't know BBM was free worldwide. Assumed that there would be roaming data charges just like any other service. Good to know.


October 25, 2010, 5:50 pm

The keyboard needed to be horizontal imo, like Sony's x10 Mini Pro. It's the only way the keyboard can be made better!


October 25, 2010, 7:02 pm

@rav - Well dont quote me on it but thats what I have been told! although after a quick google it seems that it isnt true and it actually uses a small amount of data to send a bbm


so roaming charges would apply, thought it was too good to be true!


October 25, 2010, 11:17 pm

@rav & @ Stelph

The compelling reason I stay with BlackBerry (and increasingly, the only one)is the unique data compression used by RIM through its own servers for email and BBM. This means that while roaming throughout Europe and Asia on business I keep data costs down to a minimum; I never have to switch my BB off while travelling and have excellent push email. A week spent in China is typically a £2 or £3 data charge. Browsing would push that up, but as we all know, BB browsing is not a pretty experience - even my 3G Kindle is better :)

If cost were not an issue, I would be a iPhone user, but until I can be sure that Apple can match BlackBerry's data compression and reliable push email, I will not make the switch (Anybody want to convince me?)


October 27, 2010, 2:48 am

I heard real horror stories from all sorts of reviewers about that squeezy touchscreen thing on the Storm. Seems after all the initial scepticism about a lack of tactile feedback with the original iPhone, we've had such a mass conversion that even a minimal vibrated keypress system has been deemed unnecessary by handset makers.


October 30, 2010, 11:19 pm

@Gordon - While I doubt it will be as popular as the iPhone 4 or HTC Desire HD (and I was considering these), I have recently bought the Blackberry Torch and love it. I almost didn't because of reviews like this, however they are somewhat shallow in that they tend to focus on the processor speed, etc., rather than the usability. I'm coming from an Android phone and while the openess and apps are great, it is just not polished enough yet as an OS. On the opposite side, having used an iPhone, it is too restrictive, and less of a phone, more of a pda, and the communications experience is just not that great.

It is true, if you are a gamer or want 1000s of apps then this is not the phone for you. However, if what you want is a communications device, then I don't think you can beat a Blackberry, and the main reason not to go for one (i.e. the horrible browser experience) has just been resolved. All the communication apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, MySpace, etc. apps are all great and onboard or a download away.

In addition, I don't think I could ask for a better form factor as having a slide out keyboard means that I don't have to deal with a touch screen keyboard, yet it is small in the pocket. Now while I hear that many people are fine with a touch screen keyboard, I'm not one of them, and I have found myself writing more messages on my phone since I got the Torch than I did the whole year I had the Android phone. In addition, because the keyboard is not on the screen, it frees up the screen to display to show what the typing affects, and this is no more prominent than on the browser where you can use the standard Blackberry keyboard shortcuts to whiz around the browser and phone in general. In contract to a previous commenter, I think the portrait form factor for the keyboard is the best, as I don't want to turn my phone sideways in order to type, and most of the websites I read are better in portrait than landscape.

All in all, very happy with the Blackberry Torch, I highly recommend one if you are a people person.


November 4, 2010, 4:51 pm

@Alexander While I understand your points, I think they are general and flawed. Your primary defence of the Torch is that BlackBerrys are the best communication handsets, which is more of less true, and the second is you only want to use it for limited things.

I would counter that you're having to buy the most expensive BlackBerry ever made for a sliding keyboard/touchscreen combo you could find on many budget/midrange Android handsets. I'd also contend that BlackBerry OS is extremely limited currently, but the main thing is you are happy. The review doesn't say everyone will hate the Torch - if you have very specific needs and a large budget - then it is perfectly fine. For the majority, however, they should give it a miss.

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