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Review: BlackBerry 9800 Torch

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Menus Calls/Contacts Messaging Social Networking  

In case you forgot, BlackBerries are made for messaging maniacs. The Torch 9800 offers email, SMS, MMS, IM — in short, everything you'd expect.

First up, email. RIM has overhauled the email application a bit, though it doesn't go as far as I'd have liked it to. Whether you're a corporate user or a Yahoo user, the Torch handles Exchange, POP3 and IMAP4 accounts with ease. Users can add up to 10 different email accounts to the Torch. It carries over many of the touch-based email behavior seen on the Storm devices. It can display HTML email, but the phone is fussy about downloading images for those emails. It sort of negates the point if you have to always request that the images be loaded. HTML emails also get in the way of swiping behavior. For example, with the Storm/Storm2 swiping left or right takes you to the previous or next email. With the Torch, you end up panning around an HTML email when you swipe left or right rather than advancing to the next email. Regular emails don't have this problem on the Torch.

Despite some of these navigation niggles, the Torch's email experience is mostly good. Options abound, and there are simple touch controls to perform actions such as replying, forwarding, and so on.

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The SMS/MMS client has been updated a bit and now offers better threaded messaging. Messages are called out in text bubbles that help to visually separate the different sides of the conversation. Adding any sort of media to outgoing messages is a breeze. Content is nicely embedded in the text bubbles.

BlackBerry Messenger is on board, of course, to allow for PIN-based messaging. Users of BBM will be pleased enough with the the current version of BBM on board the Torch, which isn't much changed when compared to what's already available on existing BlackBerry handsets. Using BBM lets users avoid SMS charges and offers tools such as received/read receipts.

If BBM isn't your thing, the Torch also offers Yahoo Messenger, AIM, Windows Live, and Google Talk IM clients.

All of these messaging services (and social networking, too) are wrapped together in a master inbox and the notification bar. While useful, both can be overwhelming. Some people may want to exclude their Twitter @replies from their main inbox. I know I would. Same goes for some Facebook messages. You can, if you wish, hide the entire master inbox and retrieve messages each from its own account inbox. If you have multiple email accounts, Twitter accounts, Facebook, and so on, arranging all these into a usable stream takes patience.

I'd rather see the social networking apps pulled out of the master inbox and aggregated in their own spot.

The notification bar found on the home screen lets users preview any of the messages listed here without opening the associated messaging application.


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