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printed July 25, 2014
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Review: BlackBerry 9800 Torch

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The BlackBerry 9800 Torch with BlackBerry OS 6 and the new WebKit browser on board together make for the best BlackBerry yet. BlackBerry OS 6, in particular, pushes the Blackberry platform back into the fray with Apple and Google. But I'm not sure BlackBerry OS 6 has much of a fighting chance.

RIM is historically slow to upgrade its hardware and services, as it can't alienate its business user base. That is evident in its "fresh but familiar" pitch of BlackBerry 6. RIM changed *just enough* about the user interface to make it a more competitive product, but didn't go with a clean-sheet design and start anew.

BlackBerry OS 6's strengths include the improved home screen, messaging notification bar, improved media software, vastly improved browser, better social network integration, and future support for Web-based apps. RIM did a good job of working touch-based controls into the behavior of the Torch.

We can't leave out the weaknesses, however. The email program, while powerful and feature-rich, still doesn't have the pop or pizazz that some of the competition offers. In my opinion, there's too much familiar, and not enough fresh when it comes to the overall look and feel of the icons, menus, and systems. The browser is more powerful, but felt sluggish an unresponsive at times.

Beyond the software, the Torch 9800 itself isn't a home run. The odd marriage of touch phone with the slider-QWERTY may not appeal to some, despite the extra functionality. Battery life was acceptable, but call quality was surprisingly weak. The Torch's display also fails to light my fire, especially in the light cast by competing handsets such as the Droid X and Galaxy S devices.

If you're an AT&T customer who happens to be a BlackBerry aficionado, the Torch is a no brainer. Go out and get it tomorrow. If you're an Android or iPhone lover, you'd best check the Torch out before buying.

If you're a BlackBerry user on any other network, I'd recommend waiting a bit to see what else RIM conjures up for the carrier of your choice.

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