BlackBerry Torch 9800 review from the perspective of a Power Traveler

CrackBerry Idol - Aloha Joe
By Kevin Michaluk on 4 Sep 2010 12:07 am EDT

BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review - Power Traveler

The BlackBerry 9800 Torch has been touted as the "best BlackBerry that RIM has produced." While many have mixed feelings about RIM's newest sizzling hot device (aka. The Torch), I was given the task of reviewing this device from the prospective of a person who travels/vacations a lot.

While OS6 boast some significant changes, I believe that OS6 was released prematurely. OS6 is still a bit too buggy to have been released on the Torch...even if the 9800 is true to its tagline: "Less than an evolutionary leap, more like a triple axle."

BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review


My user experience was less than I had hoped for and/or expected. Which is bitter sweet for me. Sweet...that OS6's "current limitations" made this review short and sweet. However, the downside is that this device/OS has just been released and "currently" has very little to no support (BlackBerry/RIM excluded).

I experienced problems with the Torch right out of the box. Upon unboxing the BlackBerry 9800 and picking it up, it is quite noticeable that this BlackBerry is significantly heavier. Some would say, even a bit Droid-ish in weight. While it takes some getting used to, the weight soon becomes less and less noticeable.

The first OS issue I encountered, was that my Torch was missing BlackBerry's signature BBM. While on vacation (esp. when out of the country) I am a big...NO...HUGE...BBM user. I was disappointed when I powered up the Torch only to find that BBM was not preloaded. What??? Yep, it's true, even the Torch's powerful Universal Search could not locate BBM (refer to image below). To make things worse, an OS6 bug prevented me from downloading BBM from RIM (Error 907). Had I been out-of-state or even worse out-of-the-country, this would have been a disaster.

BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review

The disappointment continued when the 9800 sported the infamous "white screen" on 5 different occasions; requiring multiple battery pulls in only a week's time.

The most noticeable changes FOR ME as a traveler involved the following:

Universal Search☺: When I'm in a new city, I don't have time to dilly dally. I need answers, directions, and contacts NOW! Universal Search keeps this device "in the flow." It is truly one of the things that keep OS6 afloat. Universal Search helps the end user navigate through the chaos of swiping threw 2 or 3 various screens/pages just to find what you're looking for. The Universal Search feature can be accessed straight from the home page by simply sliding your Torch open and typing. Whether it be an app, contact, photo, email, text, web search, etc. This beautiful feature can save valuable time and effort. It is the proverbial finder of the "needle in the hay stack" for the 9800.

Keyboard☺: I absolutely love the fact that the Torch has both a physical keyboard as well as a virtual one. RIM made a great decision in making this device a "real touch" and replacing the "surepress." I can't begin to tell you how irritating that surepress sound can be on 3 hour road trip from LA to Las Vegas; even worse on a 5-6 hour flight (airplane mode of course). Some of these business guys (not you just don't know how to keep their CrackBerry addiction in check. The virtual keyboard now offers a quieter BlackBerry experience.

Battery☹: The battery life of the BlackBerry Torch is not one of a typical BlackBerry. The battery life is more like something Apple would put out. After less than 16 hours of "regular use," this 9800 Torch had to be "re-kindled" via a mandatory battery recharge. Whether I'm traveling for business or pleasure, I tend to be on-the-go from early morning til late in the evening. Having to recharge my device became a bit of a nuisance.

Touch Screen☹: The UI touch interface needs to be optimized. BlackBerry's current touch screen is a huge leap in the right direction, however, (and I hate to do this...but) compared to an iPhone, the BlackBerry's touch screen experience is lagging (pun However, it's at these times that the ever present track pad picks up the slack. The 9800's track pad allows the user to utilize the cursor for more accurate/deliberate screen actions.

BlackBerry Torch 9800 ReviewBlackBerry Torch 9800 Review

When traveling, I tend to use the following apps pretty religiously:


BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review  BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review


BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review

Google Maps

BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review

Twitter for BlackBerry (as soon as fully supported & out of beta...Social Scope)

BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review

BBM (Was not preloaded/bug prevented proper download)

BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review

TXTLater (Unsupported/Not available on device)

BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review

World Mate (Unsupported/Not available on device)

Tether, OpenTable, Google Maps, & Twitter worked flawlessly with my new BlackBerry 9800 Torch.

I was a little disappointed to hear that WorldMate & TXTLater was/is not yet supported and is not available on the 9800. WorldMate has been keeping my itineraries straight for a couple of years now. Absolutely love it! As for BBM, I had to do a device "wipe and reinstall."


How I use/benefit from the Torch and would I recommend it? Hmmm, very tough question...and maybe, too early in the game to make that type of assessment. Like most smartphones, BlackBerry's devices are becoming more and more reliant on apps, themes, etc. While OS6 has major improvements, it still is a bit buggy. At times, this OS can seem chaotic and has "too much going on" for my taste; which can be very frustrating from the end user's perspective. While I like the direction RIM is going in with the whole "rethink possible" slogan. I believe it's a little too early in the game to predict how the Torch/OS6 consumer will benefit. As of date, there appears to be little to no tech support on the app end for this OS6 platform.
I can't really say I'd give the Torch a "thumbs up or thumbs down," being that the 9800/OS6 was just released.

I believe that (AT THIS TIME), the Torch has certainly fell short of a "triple axle." OS6 is still too buggy and down right frustrating. Typically, I just want to pick up my BlackBerry and get down to business. Perhaps I'm just a BlackBerry traditionalist/purist...I want my BlackBerry to make my life easier not busier.



  • Universal Search
  • True touch screen finally replaces surepress
  • Camera 5.0 (takes great pics)
  • Faster reset
  • Customizable folders
  • Sleek Configuration


  • Is still a bit buggy
  • UI Touch interface needs to be optimized
  • BBM not preinstalled
  • Hardly any app support for OS6 (thus far...)
  • Battery life (1 day tops)
  • Daily battery pull required due to device freezing up
  • OS6 can seem a bit "helter/skelter"
  • No support for Apps (soon to be resolved)
  • Limited accessories (soon to be resolved)

While weighing the current shortcomings of this device/OS against the "potential" of this device/OS, I'll have to give the Torch Aloha Joe's 3 out of 5 surfboards. (with a possibility of upgrading to 4 out of 5 as OS6 support rolls out).

BlackBerry Torch 9800 ReviewBlackBerry Torch 9800 ReviewBlackBerry Torch 9800 Review

Reader comments

BlackBerry Torch 9800 review from the perspective of a Power Traveler


Kevin (aka Ryan Seacrest): Last up in the final roud of CrackBerry Idol is Aloha Joel, tackling the BlackBerry Torch 9800 review from the perspectation of the power traveler, aka staycationer. That's it for reviews for CrackBerry Idol. After this it's the final vote. But first, let's see what the judges had to say about A.J.'s review.

CrackBerry Idol Judges

Dieter: Another good review from you that stuck with your island theme, and I loved the end to the video. Consistent performance throughout the competition. It's a shame you had so many issues with your particular Torch unit though - sounds desperately in need of a clean OS reload. The written review was easy to read and stuck with the assigned theme, which was good to see. Good luck in the vote!

Georgia: Aloha Joe, I always look forward to your videos and reviews and you did not let me down. Your video was a pleasure to watch. The time and effort you put into the editing and music really paid off. You also made sure to tailor the written review to the power traveller, while working in your overall feelings of the Torch. All of your videos had a theme which you kept throughout the whole competition and it worked for you, bravo!

Craig: Joe, your video was well produced and enjoyable to watch. In both your video and written review you correctly gave the perspective of a traveling/vacationing Torch user while discussing the pros and cons of the device, and some of the apps a traveling user would use. Solid review.

How can I get the first start up video to ever come back up. It was very neat. I also like the tutorial videos nice touch rim.

Solid review Aloha Joe. CrackBerry saved the best for last in this final round. I gotta say though, I think people will/already have become tired of the island theme. It's great and original, but I think it's getting way too obvious. If you win this (which I have no doubt that you will), I'd assume you would need to tone it down quite a bit, if not completely from your reviews.

Good job and good luck!

As a regular traveller I was really looking forward to this review and I think you did an excellent job. Unlike some of the others in the final you actually fulfilled your brief, and you picked up on some nice details which actually matter when travelling. Even putting your OS problems aside, this is probably the first Torch review that has confirmed my suspicions about why the device isn't for me too. Kudos Aloha Joe!

To the previous comments and the Judges remarks. No offense but How does the TORCH differ or make life better from any other BB while traveling? Great that he listed his favorite apps while traveling but did the Torch perform better with these than his previous BB experience? Worse?
What new features does the Torch/OS6 have to ease a traveler's worries and headaches that are not already available on any BB?
Once again we get a re-hash of a Torch overview and not a targeted perspective. And for a judge to say they loved the last part of the video, which wasted a quarter of his video with a cheesey flashback where he was drinking beer as a child?
Aloha Joe, How will the Torch help me at the airport, check-in counter, rental agency, hotel front desk, rental desk? How will it help me find a para-sailing expedition or tell me what historical locations are near me? And how does this differ on the new OS?
How does the fact that RIm added a sliding keyboard help a traveler? You just moved on....And while I'm sure twittering is NOT my favorite app, how does the Torch enhance/detract from your twitter experience?
Judges, not even close to a traveler's perspective. And while six screenshots look pretty, to just say the worked is just falling short of the mark.
As for the Pros/Cons---- generic at best. How about, the large screen can/can't be read easily on a beach, or, the WiFi is/isn't great at finding a network at the hotel/bar/ airport/mudpit?

just my .02

As someone who travels a fair amount, and for extended periods on business (and as someone who posted above) I hope you don't mind me answering. Although the things you mention are valid, much of them refer to generic apps (eg British Airways app for checking in etc), and I'd just expect the wifi to work. The important things to me are weight (I don't want something big and heavy in my pocket), battery life, whether it's easier for firing off emails in the airport lounge or taxi on the way to a meeting etc, BBMing and keeping in touch back home, and general convenience. I think that AJ hit upon these things really well, and the points such as the use of generic search and a silent keyboard for use on the plane were a nice added touch. I guess it depends on how much you travel and why, but as someone who borders on being a power traveller I'd say this really hit the spot.

I would rather stick to or and wait until all of the apps gain support for the device I love. Great review, tells me I'm not going to get the torch lol, me loves his 9700.


I would rather stick to or and wait until all of the apps gain support for the device I love.

Great review, tells me I'm not going to get the torch lol, me loves his 9700.

I agree with dracoe2 aswell, the overall movies and reviews of crackberry idol were of a very low caliber and every time I thought that at least one judge would comment on this, but no you guys praised everyone with their horrible video's and somewhat better reviews. As for this review, who cares about twitter or BBM, thats generic stuff for 75% of blackberry users, and I am sure lots of people who do not travel that much use opentable aswell. So tell us what's the difference between this 50% app showcase(not review seeing as just posting a pic of the app is not enough to qualify as a review) and 50% nagging review about os6 not being mature yet and a very bad generic review? I hoped during this competition any one of the contenders would just read a review or 2 from sites like engadget en use that as a basis. But these uninspired and rushed reviews are not something that makes me want to visited crackberry more often.

Joe, I did like your review and the video. You talked about how wonderful Tether is, but I'm not sure you explained to the noobs what Tether is and why it is so important for a traveler. Overall it wasn't a bad review.

Great review AJ. I like how honest you were with the difficulties you encountered. It wasn't glossed over nor ignorant of the torches shortcomings. Simultaneously giving RIM some incentive to push harder. (no pun intended) all the best!!!!!!!!

First you complain about the weight of the phone? it is no heavier then the bold 9000 and certainly nothing to point out in a review. my torch came out of the box with BBM and it is not found under instant messaging so posting a screen shot of that location is pointlesss. it is located on the home screen.i also find it VERY hard to believe it wasnt on your device brand new right out of the box. as for your battery life comments .. more BS the battery life on the torch last much longer then my bold 9000 did WITH an upgraded battery.complaining about having to charge a phone after "less" then 16 hours of use is just laughable. if your phone is freezing up daily you either A. have a defective phone or B. YOU have installed some lame app that is causing your issues.

This, and all the other "Idol" Torch reviews feel like they'd be valid for almost any BlackBerry device. Nothing has really highlighted why Torch is better (or worse) than any other BB device. They may be interesting, may be useful, but really don't spotlight the Torch. Just sayin'....

I did feel, that although the video was entertaining and very well edited, it didn't have a lot of substance. It did cover the points well, although, with bringing up Twitter, I'm surprised you didn't bring up the Social Feeds option.

The written review was definitely very good. I'm surprised to see the number of apps not supporting BB6/Torch yet, especially when you consider World Mate is one of the bigger RIM Alliance members.

Very well balanced review.

Joe, I think you did a great job, you held my interest through the entire video and written review... Though your first sentence in the last paragraph gave me pause by the way it rolled off the tongue, maybe it is just me on that. I think you did a good job of incorporating a torch review into the vacation/staycation life style. I do have to say your video was well-edited, but just as with Brittany the actual shots of the the Torch were all out of focus. I know this is a minor thing, but it was the one thing that kept your video review in this round from being the BEST in the entire competition. Where I'm not a fan of the ending, I do like the originality and your honesty. You clearly pointed out the short-comings of the Torch and OS6 which, I felt, showed you were impartial, even though you're a BlackBerry fan. Also, I feel like the pros/cons section, it is a MUST with every review. Other than these CB Idol finalist reviews I almost always skip down and look for that portion then go back and find anything else I need to fill in the blanks...

I also have to give you credit for sticking up for Brittany, which as a competitor can be tough, but it shows you are a class act!

After this review my standings, as with all the other competitors:
1. Joseph*
1. Aloha Joe*
3. Kerri
4. Dave
5. Brittany

*- I'm really torn at this point of which to choose... Both were great competitors and submitted excellent reviews. For me I think I will have to go back in the history of CB Idol to pick my vote. I will vote based on the total body of work between these two submitted...

I think all of the competitors deserve a big thank you, as with out them we would not have had this event which definitely livened up the CrackBerry page/community.

Joe, I think this was a good reveiew. I knew early on it would be between you and Joseph.

But my problem with your review, and some of the others', is that you didn't directly show me how this benefits or hinders a travler. I mean, look at your pros/cons list. It has NOTHING to do with traveling.

We all saw the major broad reviews of this device. You don't have to keep reiterating the slideout keyboard and how it works, or that it has both physical and touch capabilities. We know that. We don't need an out-of-the-box-review dominating so much of your written review unless it specifically outlines how it affects the travler.

Another thing that drives me crazy in these reveiws is pointless molesting of the phone. quit flipping it and sliding it just to give yourself time to talk. Show me what you need to show me and move on.

And last of my pet peeves that I'll mention, is quit telling me something is buggy. You had a great opportunity to show me a bug in the video. You mentioned it, but then you went on to complain about how BBM wasn't installed on your device. Telling me somethign is buggy is useless and I wish reviewers would heed that message. Showing me the screen doesn't react to touch commands properly is useful and informative. Everyone is saying that OS6 is buggy, but I still have no idea what bugs are showing up on this device without doing heavy research in the forums.

And speaking of your BBM problem, did you research to see if other phones had it installed? Did you figure out why yours wasn't? Could it have something to do with having CB as a middle man before you got your phone? Does RIM know this is happening and did they post a solution?

Now, I know I'm complaining a lot. But I feel like all the contestants here did not hone in on their specific focus for these reviews enough. Like I said, your pros/cons list didn't really relate to the traveler. You got caught up in a general review and lost focus of the entire reason for your review and its target audience.

In any case, in and of itself, the review was good and the video was watchable the whole way through. I can tell you took a lot of time to give us the information you thought was important. in that regard, this was a job well done.

Kudos to anyone who read my whole post without falling asleep. lol

doing a universal search for 'bbm' on the torch would NOT bring up blackberry messenger in the search results...try 'blackberry' or 'messenger'

...I a matter of fact, I had two pics (one w/ "bbm and one w/ "BlackBerry Messenger" in the search). Perhaps it was cut in editing??? I'll go check to make sure the pic was attached (on my end). Perhaps, it just didn't make it on my attachment list when I submitted to pics. Thanks!

I'm sorry but that whole presentation was terrible! I travel allot and could have done a million times better review on apps for the traveller on the go. Sorry man, thumbs waaaaay down.

CB Nation,

Thank you for the positive remarks as well as your constructive criticism. I have enjoyed posting for ALL of you:) Thanks again

-Aloha Joe

I liked your written review, but your video reminded me of why I don't like your style. I think when you're showcasing beaches and Corona's, you're keeping in the theme of travel. However, your narration in the video sounded like you're just an everyday Joe who happens to have a BlackBerry. When I read a review, I want the impression that the person doing the review, knows what he or she is talking about. I didn't get that impression from you. I liked the special effects you used in your video and the beach scenes were OK. One factor I didn't like about your review is your putting down the device. To many BlackBerry users, this Torch is the best BB Device they ever used. You put the device down, you insult these users. Discuss the shortcomings in an objective manner.

I thought you made a decent attempt to be a traveler perspective, though you cited too many problems with your device, especially those problems that had nothing do with travel. A traveler is often on public transportation (air, train, ship, bus, etc.), in a place they are not familiar with, in a hotel, using limited funds or traveler's checks, perhaps foreign currency, etc. If you're on business travel, you may be using a corporate expense account. I would have appreciated your review more had pretended you took a long vacation or a business travel and demonstrated how you would use your Torch to address these needs. Tether was a good app to discuss because you don't typically get internet for free in hotels, but I think your focus on what you didn't have working for you took away from your review.

For me, there is no reason to switch from my 9700 to the Torch. My Bold 9700 does all that I need it to do. I'm not bashing RIM. I still think that they have the best product out there for my needs. Having said that, I will say that I'm anxious to get the web kit browser. That would definitely make my Bold better.

Maybe it's just me( or you could have just gotten a faulted device) but i have had absolutely no problems with my torch. I have not gotten ANY white screens nor have i had to remove the battery once since buying it (three weeks ago). On average the battery goes for about 2 and half days (or longer) before i have to change it and i am a very heavy user. i literally use the thing constantly for work, school, and fun. You are correct that the app support and accessories are limited so far but even with all i use it for it has never frozen up on me. AND BTW BBM CAME INSTALLED ON MY DEVICE. ALL I HAD TO DO WAS LOG IN TO MY ACCOUNT. Non-the-less this was a good review. All i am saying is that i have not experienced many of the problems that you have. maybe you device is faulty 9 who knows) but my TORCh works beautifully. I look forward to purchasing some of the accesories that are yet to be released for it. Thank you and have a good Labor Day,

Thanks for the review. Nice job, but you were much to kind to the folks at BB. The product has too many shortcomings/bugs right now and like the early 9000's it should not have been released. I don't believe anyone would put up with your list of "cons" if purchasing a car, why should we with this product? If one must pull the battery every day just to get it to work, it's poorly designed. BB better get their act together before the party passes them buy.

I too am torn some times with the torch, I have lost a few apps that are not supported by the new OS6. I hope that as supports rolls out and the updates to the OS6 come out this will improve. A bit surprise that BBM was not pre-installed, it was on my torch, one thing that does bother me is the wasted 4GB of storage. I have a 16GB card that stores all my stuff on and the on-board 4GB is not even being used just sits there and does nothing RIM needs to allow users to use this for something else if needed.