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Vodafone To Get First Strike at Blackberry Torch

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Vodafone will be the first network to offer the Blackberry Torch 9800 in the UK, following its announcment by RIM and AT&T in the US yesterday.

The company has set up a pre-order page for those interested in being the first to get hold of the new handset, though there are no specific details on pricing or release date. There are reports however, that suggest that the phone could start shipping in just a couple of weeks.

The Blackberry Torch is a significant launch for RIM, as its previous two touch screen handsets, the Storm and Storm 2, were both being generally poorly received by users.

With the new Torch 9800, Blackberry could be seen as hedging its bets, as the device features both a touch-screen, with pinch-to-zoom, and a slide out keyboard. However, rather than just new hardware, the phone also features a new version of its operating system, OS6, which RIM hopes will dissuade Blackberry fans from jumping ship to Appleā€™s iPhone and Google Android devices, both of which are praised for their leading edge interfaces.

Meanwhile RIM is also facing pressure from two Gulf states, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, who have announced bans on Blackberry services for failing to comply with government regulations due to their use of encrypted data. The latest reports suggest the RIM may have already agreed to concessions to the Indian government.

With these controversies overseas and new hardware to push, at least RIM can take satisfaction from the fact that it, rather than Apple or HTC, is back in the picture for smartphones.

Link: Vodafone Blackberry Torch pre-order page.

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