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Review: BlackBerry Torch 9850

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BlackBerrys are dedicated messaging devices, and the 9850 is no slacker. It does, however, have one serious drawback: The software QWERTY keyboard.

Quite simply, it is one of the worst I've used. The letters are terribly small and packed too tightly together. It literally took me 6 attempts to type my own name, for Pete's sake! The keyboard has three entry modes: Direct, Predictive, and Corrective. Using Direct mode offers no typing help at all. The Predictive mode attempts to correct as you go, and I found it often got in the way of what I was typing. The Corrective mode had the best results for me, but even then I had to do a lot of editing. I made no improvement after using the device for several days, which is what I would qualify as a typical break-in period. I sent some seriously cruddy emails while testing the Torch 9850. The Torch does support the software QWERTY in landscape mode, which makes it somewhat more usable, but it takes up too much of the screen's real estate and leaves too little room to see what you're typing.

Where physical keyboards appear to be RIM's forte, software keyboards are its nemesis.

OK, email. The 9850 handles Exchange, POP3 and IMAP4 accounts with ease. Users can add up to 10 different email accounts to the 9850. It can display HTML email with no problem, and there are simple touch controls to perform actions such as replying, forwarding, and so on. The SMS/MMS client offers threaded messaging, which are defined 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. BlackBerry Messenger 6 is on board, of course, to allow for PIN-based messaging. This newer version lets users interact with one another from within select connected applications. As for instant messaging, Google Talk, Windows Live, and Yahoo are supported. AIM isn't. If you add a Gmail account to the 9850, the software automatically sets up Google Talk.

On the social networking front, the 9850 comes with official Facebook and Twitter applications pre-installed. Each works well enough of its own accord to keep users in touch with their circles of friends, family and colleagues. There is also a Social Feeds application that streams status updates and posts from Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk, Podcasts, and user-defined RSS feeds.


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