Will the Blackberry Torch set the Smart Phone Market Alight? [Product Review]

Blackberry Torch

As one of the major proponents of the ‘smart phone’ market and the flag-flier of mobile emails – RIM Blackberry has recently been criticised for more or less keeping pace with other developers such as Apple, Motorola and Samsung rather than innovating itself.

Blackberry has long proved wildly popular with the corporate crowd, very much on the back of its advanced emailing capabilities and full, physical QWERTY keyboard, and while the ease of typing has gathered it a swathe of younger fans – keen to use their phones for interacting online and sending each other social media messages rather than making traditional calls – it has still lost ground to competitors – especially those with cutting-edge touch screen capabilities.

The Canadian manufacturer’s latest bid to stake a bigger claim in the personal-use smart phone sphere, the Blackberry Torch 9800, was designed to create a bridge to pioneering touch screen technology, while still retaining the spirit of Blackberry’s traditional strong suits. But, while general reception to the new handset remains to be seen – especially when it comes to sales – reviewers across the tech landscape have labelled the phone a mixed bag, leaning towards positive but latching on to a few design drawbacks that hamper user experience.

The first, most striking difference to previous RIM Blackberry handsets is the orientation of the phone: While RIM’s previous handsets have generally been landscape-oriented affairs, they have opted for a portrait style with the Torch, in a move that may have confused some consumers.

The touch screen is the other big change for Blackberry, which has not incorporated such technology in most of its models. While this has been acknowledged as a welcome move, some reviewers, such as Flora Graham of CNET UK, have criticised the screen’s responsiveness.

In addition, the Blackberry’s traditional interface has had to be revamped in order to accommodate touch screen functionality, ushering in Blackberry OS 6, allowing users to poke and prod the traditional menus and icons of the developer’s devices. But, while the device looks to bring RIM Blackberry more clout when it comes to squaring off against touch screen-centric manufacturers such as Apple and HTC, the Torch 9800 has hung onto one of the strongest traditional selling points of previous devices – its QWERTY keyboard. Though you can chose to use a touch screen version, a user can also slide out a full physical keypad. It seems likely the virtual version will be pressed into use for short messages or notes, while the majority of users will revert to the physical when they have more to say.

Compared to other similar devices, the Blackberry Torch 9800 uses a less powerful processor – clocking in at 624 MHz versus the 1 GHz varieties offered by iPhone, HTC Desire and more – possibly as the company expects less web surfing and more utilisation of its market-leading email functionality. Whether this will have an impact of web performance is contested by various reviewers, but there’s a chance users could suffer a lag when visiting complex web pages. On the other hand, one feature many users will be thankful for is its tabbed browsing capabilities.

The 5 Mp camera built in to the smart phone could cause some mixed feelings. It includes image stabilisations, face detection, night mode, geotagging and the capability to record video as well. Though it boasts several innovative features, it has been generally described as a middle-of-the-road offering.

While you may be forgiven for thinking Blackberry may be heading in a corporate direction with features like these, it’s worth remembering the Torch has revamped the Blackberry music player and is making a big deal about its social media links and integrated social feeds too. The marketing campaign also makes sure to mention featured apps – RIM certainly seems to know the score when it comes to making sure app innovations are easily accessible.

Of course, the new Blackberry handset still has benefits over other smart phone offerings, such as an extended battery life, stretching from 5.5 hours of talk time to 432 hours in standby mode, besting other similar handsets. Additionally, the phone’s memory – 512Mb built-in; 4Gb MicroSD – can be expanded to a total of 32Gb.

If you’ve any questions about this blog post or any others that you’ve read from the Fasthosts Blog, then feel free to tweet me @fasthosts and use the hashtag #fhblog.

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