A couple of my colleagues received shiney new Blackberry Torches today, and being the IT guy, I had to quarantine the new devices for a few hours to ensure that they were compliant with my IT policies. This gave me some time to sniff around the new handset, as I had considered the Torch as an alternative solution to my iPhone4 search expedition. Here are my inital thoughts and observations on the new device from RIM.
Inital appearances are that the phone resembles the photo on RIMs website - so thats a good start. It is unmistakably a Blackberry and follows their current design lineage. Weight wise, it is a little heavier than my Curve 8900 but not excessive.
The touch screen is very nice and responsive. I am so glad that RIM did away with the clicky screen that they had used on the Storm. The Resolution is nice and the new OS looks pretty slick.
Because the phone has the shiney stainless rim to it, I found it difficult to get any kind of grip on the screen edge when using one hand making it next to impossible to slide the screen up to reveal the keyboard without using two hands unless you plonk your thumb on the screen and give it a flick. When you do slide it though, the screen moves with precision and accuracy - something that other handhelds fail on. It seems there has been a lot of work put onto the slider to make sure it works for years to come.
Sliding the screen gives you access to the keyboard, which I found a little more difficult to use than the one on my Curve 8900. The main issue I have, is that the edges of the phone curve up. I don't have big fingers by any means, but I found myself having to try and 'work around' the edges to press the outer column of buttons. That being said the actual keyboard itself is quite nice. The Onscreen keyboard was a pleasant suprise too. In landscape mode I could type as fast as on the hardware keyboard. The on screen keyboard in portrait mode caused a few typing errors, mainly because the keys were smaller, but I expected this.
The usual blackberry keys (Call, Blackberry, Escape and End/Power), all on a one-peice, depressable area. They are responsive and do the job.
The new track pad technology that RIM started using on the newer Curves and Bold is a great advancement over the older track ball and provides an easy alternative navigation to the touch screen (especially for those hard core Blackberry users).
The OS is fast and responsive. Some nice touches are the fact that you can touch the status area icons and it will show you the relevant info. Touch the Email icon and it will show you a summary and take you to your inbox, touch the top banner to get access to the wireless network settings and time setup.
As for the app browsing, it is kinda nice. You can flick up the apps then browse laterally through different categories, such as Frequently Used, All, Favourites, Media and Downloads, then vertically to see all the apps in each section. You still have the option of folders too. And if the touch screen isnt to your liking you can still use the trackpad to navigate in the same fashion.
One complaint i have with the Curve is that the web browser sucks. The Torch has a much improved version with the option to have multiple sites open at the same time and scrolll through them like the apps. Site rendering works and using the now-familiar 'pinch' method, you can zoom in and out.
It is very aparent through using the OS that RIM have gone to great lengths to make the phone more 'touch friendly'. Swiping, sliding, pinching and touching is the norm and happens very intuitively.
Restart time is 3 minutes, comparing to the 8 minutes for my Curve, is a welcome change. This is probably in part due to the new OS and part to the faster hardware.
In summary, it certainly looks like RIM have put some thought into this device to try and keep current. I had previously reviewed the OS6 specs and although it has lots of good features, I think it is just the next generation of Blackberry. Yes its nice and I would buy it, but I was hoping for a little more given the competition in the market place. Blackberry users will love it, others... maybe.RIMs Website - The Blackberry Torch