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Review: BlackBerry 9800 Torch

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Apps

BlackBerry App World has been updated to version 2.0 on the BlackBerry 9800 Torch. What's different? Not a whole lot at first glance. Basic navigation of the store remains the same, with featured apps front-and-center, and access to categories and top 25 lists buried in the options menu. The biggest improvement is support for carrier billing. This means AT&T customers will be able to purchase apps from App World and have the charges applied to their monthly wireless bill.

App World is still sparsely populated when compared to the Apple App Store and the Android Market, but it is much better off than Palm's App Catalog or the Windows Marketplace. There are thousands of applications available for download, including many of the must-have apps such as Pandora, etc.

There is also a ridiculous AT&T AppCenter on board the Torch. This app store, which itself must first be installed, offers users access to insanely over-priced wallpapers, ringtones, and so on.

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Bluetooth

The Bluetooth functions of the Torch worked perfectly. Pairing with headsets, speakers, other phones and PCs was a snap. Call quality through mono Bluetooth headsets was a little bit iffy, but bearable. Quality of music through stereo Bluetooth speakers was pretty solid. Passing files back and forth between other handsets or computers was not a problem.

Clock

The BlackBerry clock application doesn't appear to be changed. The 9800 has a really nice analog clock that takes up nearly the entire screen if you want it to. Too bad that's not the default screen when the device is sleeping. You have to manually select the clock to see it. If the device falls asleep when the clock is open, you'll see the time nice and big when you wake the 9800 up. During most regular use, you're stuck with the smaller digital read-out that's at the top of the screen. In other words, it's a pain to check the time on the fly.

Alternately, you can set the Torch in "bedside mode". This essentially assumes that you're going to place the Torch on a nightstand within arm's reach when you're in bed. It will show the clock and let you interact with the alarm. Bedside mode can also be activated when the Torch is charging, which means the clock is visible any time the Torch is plugged in.

GPS

The Torch is pre-loaded with AT&T's $10/month navigation service. It offers voice-guided turn by turn directions, and does a good job at it. If you're cheap like me and don't want to give AT&T another $10 per month, you can stick with Google's free Maps for Mobile. Google Maps for BlackBerry, however, doesn't offer voice guidance or turn-by-turn directions. It will provide directions from point A to point B, but only in list form. It is capable, however, and works well. Google Maps also works as a good search tool if you want to find stuff nearby.

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