After the big announcement about the coming of the new 9800 Blackberry Torch, we at eTechTour actually got to go hands on with a real test unit of it before it launches on AT&T on August 12th. While reps would not let us know when it will be launching on other networks (in Canada and other countries) we have had some time to play around with it and so we thought weâ€™d give all you a look at what the new Blackberry is all about.
Iâ€™ve been using the Blackberry Torch for about a week now and Iâ€™ve got to say, this is a huge step forward for RIM and Blackberries. I think a lot of people are going to be pleasantly surprised. The one thing Iâ€™m hoping people will do is reserve judgment until theyâ€™ve actually taken a spin with this device as Iâ€™ve seen people online already complaining about the screen and this and that, and honestly, thereâ€™s nothing quite like this when youâ€™re holding it. But enough with that, letâ€™s get onto the preview/review.
The first thing we noticed was the changed back plate. Our initial reaction was â€œwhat the heck is RIM thinking?â€ when we saw the grooved backing, but as soon as we held it in our hands we could tell they had made this choice for a reason. True there was no more faux leather, but the soft plastic combined with the grooves on the back just feels satisfying to the touch. Iâ€™ve found myself more than once just running my finger along the back of the phone playing with such grooves. Theyâ€™ve kept the same look as the Bold with itâ€™s dark chrome edges and soft curvy edges that still lends itself that very professional look which we really enjoy.
Itâ€™s a little heavier than any of the other blackberries, but it gives it a really nice solid feeling, not like some other cheaper feeling phones. The buttons are well placed and are easy to reach while holding it with one hand (especially the lock/unlock button which is amazing).
The slide mechanism on the Torch is appropriately well built as well. It has a good push to it as you open and a nice pull as you bring it closed both giving a satisfying click as you here it move into place.
This brings us to the keyboard. The keyboard is identical to the Bold 9700 with its same spacious 4 rows of clicky buttons that were already a major hit so weâ€™re sure will be a huge crowd winner as well. Looking at the device youâ€™d expect it to feel top heavy with it slid open but it seems to rest perfectly in the balance at just the right weight. You can tell they really thought long and hard about this design hoping for a winner.
The screen itself is big enough, much bigger than most Blackberryâ€™s but not so large that it would seem imposing like some of the larger touch screen devices now. Itâ€™s very bright and colorful and the touch is snappy and responsive (a huge step up from the Storm!) The screen just seems to fit the phone, we donâ€™t think they could have done it any other way really.
Lastly and almost most importantly the Torch is only slightly thicker than the Bold meaning that it is in fact still very pocket able which will make the transition much easier for people upgrading as we would imagine new holsterâ€™s will be almost the same size as the ones currently for the Bold.
The Torch is the first Blackberry to come with RIMâ€™s new baby 6.0 installed on it. Itâ€™s hard to describe all the things they have changed with the new version of the OS without experiencing it for yourself but weâ€™ll try our best.
The overall look of the homescreen at first is very familiar. You see the normal wallpaper, clock, date, carrier, signal, battery and sound profile but what you come to realize soon enough is that 6.0 is not about changing the old experience to something completely different, itâ€™s about making it function better and more easily.
Each area of the screen has been optimized with shortcuts and things begging to be touched. Briefly clicking on the time gives you all your connection options, or tapping the profile icon allows you to choose a new profile on the fly. The search button allows you to use the new Universal search that searches contacts, calendars, the web, the app world, emails everything to find what youâ€™re looking for. Or if you take the main window for a drag you can expand to see all your icons or swipe left and right to see your other â€œquick menusâ€.
The quick menus allow you to customize your experience further or get to the information you want faster. All the categories are â€œAll, Favorites, Media, Downloads, and Frequentâ€. These are all pretty self explanatory.
All– shows you all your applications and options.
Favorites– allows you to tag applications, contacts and other things and theyâ€™ll show up here.
Media– shows your media options and applications
Downloads– stores all your downloaded apps for you
Frequent– lists out the most commonly used applications for quick access.
Besides the home screen, all the menus and options have been completely overhauled giving a nicer, prettier more finger friendly version of their former selves. All the old options are still there with added extraâ€™s like more tutorials and more setup wizards accompanied by videos that walk you through some of the features.
The overall look of 6.0 is very polished and we like it a lot. It offers a refreshing take on the old OS and seems new enough to make you want to play around with it for quite some time.
One of the big things everyone has been hearing about in the past few months is this new â€œwebkitâ€ browser that RIM has implemented into its new 6.0 batch.
The browser first off looks nicer than the old browser. This is a cleaner, more polished browser for sure. Youâ€™re first greeted with a page that displays any bookmarks you have and your recent history so you can get you common webpages quickly or you can begin typing a web address right away.
Loading times have decreased a great deal as the pages load quickly and promptly. Weâ€™re not sure if weâ€™d say this is the fastest browser available on the market but it should probably be ranked up somewhere with the top ones.
Doing tabbed browsing is also a lot easier with this new browser as theyâ€™ve added a quick button for opening and closing tabs where you can preview each window that you have open which is both convenient and fast! Switching between these tabs is extremely quick which is very nice to see.
The newer camera interface is very nice as well. It gives all the options one would need out of a camera such as GeoTagging, AutoFlash and many different picture modes.
The picture modes it offers are Auto, Face Detection, Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Party (dim indoor environments), Close-Up, Snow, Beach, Night and Text. Thatâ€™s a lot of options there. It also offers a quick button to get to the Gallery easily.
Video capture is very similar and captures a solid video as well, check out the video and pictures below to see for yourself.
Overall weâ€™re pretty impressed with the new Blackberry Torch. Itâ€™s changed enough in our minds that it deserves its own spot in our pockets but at the same time itâ€™s still doing everything that RIM has done in the past and is just doing it better. BBM is still there and weâ€™re positive will be stronger than ever on this new platform and the touch screen will complement it very well.
What do you all think? Has RIM go itself a winner? Or will the changes come a little too late after others like iPhone 4 and the Motorola Droid X have already entered the scene? Let us know if you want to know any other info we didnâ€™t cover here either!