BlackBerry Torch 9850 / 9860 Hands-On Video and First Impressions

By Kevin Michaluk on 4 Aug 2011 11:30 am EDT

OK CrackBerry Nation, it's time for an in-depth hands on video of the new BlackBerry Torch 9850 / BlackBerry Torch 9860 and some initial first impressions! For the video, I put Andrew Bocking, VP of Software for RIM, to work at the BlackBerry 7 Fan Night to walk us through the new full touchscreen device. Be sure to watch the video above to get a good look at features of the new Torch, but maybe more importantly, to see just how snappy the overall performance is. 1.2GHz on the BlackBerry OS is definitely a good thing. I'm going to save the in-depth analysis for our full out CrackBerry review, but here are some quick thoughts on it.

BlackBerry Bold 9850 / 9860 First Impressions

  • FEELS GREAT - I LOVE the feeling of this device in the hand. RIM set out to build a full touchscreen phone that felt great when held both in portrait mode and in landscape mode and they really succeeded here. The sculpted back of the device almost makes it feel like you're holding a game console controller when in landscape.
  • FAST - This appears to be the case for all these new BlackBerry 7 devices with 1.2 GHz processors.
  • FUNCTIONAL - One of the complaints I've been reading on the site here a bit from members is that RIM went with raised buttons on the Torch 9850/9860. Having used the device now, I think they made the right choice here. I think sticking with physical raised buttons really makes the device more usable with one hand. You can better "feel" your way around the device - it stays true to the BlackBerry experience. I also like that they put the trackpad on the device. Not only does it help with that one-handed ease of use and provide more accurate cursor control (say for clicking links in a web browser), but it makes the device more recognizable as a BlackBerry. All of these touchscreen slab devices look the same, so the trackpad makes it pop out as a BlackBerry!
  • GREAT DISPLAY - At 480x800 pixels, this is the highest resolution display on a BlackBerry to date. The extra pixels come in handy, especially for web browsing, and the BlackBerry 7 web browser seems to be dialed in pretty good. Very smooth and usable.
With the Storm name now dead and the Torch brand respresenting RIM's full touchscreen experience devices (that's why there's now a slider Torch and full screen Torch), the 9850/9860 really is looking like a great option for those who want the BlackBerry experience and don't mind not having a physical keyboard. I have a feeling a lot of people are going to be torn between which BlackBerry 7 device once they get their hands on them.

Reader comments

BlackBerry Torch 9850 / 9860 Hands-On Video and First Impressions


Argh... I want this phone bad, but it sounds like it is questionable if Verizon is going to carry it...

I am so glad the Storm line is now dead, dead. This alone is the best bit of marleting to come from RIM in a while. The Storm was a blight on the good name of RIM and now it has gone forever.

Storm is just a name. The device itself, actually the OS, just wasn't up to the task. A 9850/9860 sold under the Torch name is still a Storm; i.e., full touch-screen. Under the Storm name, this device would still kick butt and do well. I really believe putting it under the Torch name is confusing.

The Torch is already known as a slider with physical keyboard. Now there is another Torch. This one has no physical keyboard. The discerning characteristic is "a full-touchscreen with no slideout keyboard." Can you say that quickly? Now try saying the word "Storm".

Hehe, I could, but remembering the isht storm that hit our forums in a quite disgraceful display when the Storm 1 hit the streets, I am not going to say it.

In truth, bot the hardware and the software were flawed with the Storm 1. RIM did near miracles with the OS to fix the problems but a senior project manager in RIM let that device loose on the public. I do not believe that this person has been fired or re-assigned.

The Storm 2 was much better but was tarred with the name Storm unfortunately.

That is why I am glad the Storm is no more.

Verizon really needs to stop the delaying! I just got an insurance replacement (didn't cost anything) today for my original storm, yes, original storm! They sent me a storm 2....that's how long I've been holding out for a new BB! Come on VZW!!!

I could have updated last year at this time. I'm really looking forward to Verizon's announcement. It really can't come soon enough!

Wow, that video alone almost convinced me to go for it instead of a 9900, especially when they said the screen resolution. Loving the long, skinny form factor, too. A couple years ago this would have had me (when I was on a Storm) but after switching to the Bold keyboard I can't imagine going back to typing on glass.

I'm in the same boat. LOVE the 9900, but also love the big screen on this one. Maybe the torch2 is the right one for me after all. Going to have to play with both for a while before I can decide.

I'm curious....why is it in all the preview videos I've seen for this device (at least 3 different ones by now), not a single one showed any typing on the virtual keyboard? That is the one feature (at least for me) that will sway me one way or the other when considering this device. All the specs look fantastic, but I would really need to be blown away by the keyboard to be lured away from the Bold form factor. My wife and I are going to be upgrading when these come out, and she is leaning toward the 9860, but only if it's easy to type on. Can we see some video of someone typing an email or BBM?

I'm very intrigued with the Wikitude app (or what ever it was called) I can see using it in a crowd to find friends or strangers names. Follow the BBM bubble!

Yeah! Definitely very awesome idea. All the other kidz have to resort to calling/texting and other intrusive communication.

Hi @ChillFactorz,

Alex from RIM here. The Wikitude app definitely rocks! This augmented reality browser combines both your real and your virtual worlds through the camera viewfinder, letting you know who’s in the room while allowing you to connect virtually before you connect in reality. That’s certainly a new way to break the ice.

Wikitude also integrates with BBM 6 so you can see the location of your BBM 6 contacts instantly – perfect for finding your friends when you’re out in a crowd.

To learn more about this cool feature, check out this blog post and video from our Inside BlackBerry Blog:

Alex, RIM Social Media Team


They claim that this will be the "biggest launch in RIM's history", but all we're hearing in the US for the 9850/9860 is fall, which translates to November! That's not a summer launch, that's a far off, separate future launch. After the unbelievable wait we've had just for official announcements, now we have to wait several more months!! One step forward, two steps back!!

im a physical keyboard fiend.. but man this one entices me :p
fast touch bb experience on 3.7inch screen with good screen resolution, damn..

what to do what to do...

Why is the guy wearing a table clothes during a night that is supposed to be a cool BB night??? :)

Love the phone and the opengl support.. finally we can see nice games on the BB!!

They claim that this will be the "biggest launch in RIM's history", but all we're hearing in the US for the 9850/9860 is fall, which translates to November! That's not a summer launch, that's a far off, separate future launch. After the unbelievable wait we've had just for official announcements, now we have to wait several more months!! One step forward, two steps back!!

I'm all for members expressing their opinions and what not, but why is it necessary to have the same message twice in the same thread? (I think I've noticed similar comments after one or two other articles as well.)

We understand, you're upset that these new BlackBerries aren't being released globally in a reasonably short amount of time (to validate the "biggest launch in RIM's history" claim). Unfortunately, none of us here can help make these phones come out any faster. Try taking your mind off of the launch for a few days or take up a project that you've been dying to get done and before you know it your new phone will be in your hands, where it belongs.

I wasn't a TOTAL smart-ass... Just trying to lighten the mood!

I get what you're saying though, but I've seen many a person time and time again go crazy over the stress of waiting for a product that's been delayed. It'll come, one day. In times like these, all you can do is laugh!

I'm hardly going crazy over the "stress" of this, but it is genuinely frustrating. And RIM is trading at $23.90 right now, so I also wouldn't call any of this a laughing matter. But I also get what you're saying...

I agree that the sliding stock value is not a laughing matter, especially if you are a stock holder. I'm just saying that there are some things that we can't control, and though these are the times when it's paramount for us to light a flame under RIM's @$$es to become more aggressive, I think we also have to give this announcement period a bit of time to mature so that we get the full picture. It may not come soon enough but we'll be more informed once we know the dates (admittedly, we should have heard something firm by now).

The market is crashing this week. Worst in 2 years. RIM, however, has a lot more to blame than overall market conditions for closing at $23.59 today. Many can say what they want about the new devices, lack of NFC, etc., but RIM's number one problem is the inability to execute, and having to wait until fall for many of the announced devices is NOT executing, and the 3+ month wait on the 9900 is also NOT executing. That's what the market is focusing on most at this point (with RIM) and that's why I keep dwelling on it.

Most carriers are getting the 9850/9860 in the first week of September. The problem is Verizon. Still nothing from them.

Is it true it will be plastic. I'm sure it will be durable, but as durable as glass. I guess plastic won't shatter, but I don't want big ol' scratches either. Anyone??

Is it true it will be plastic. I'm sure it will be durable, but as durable as glass. I guess plastic won't shatter, but I don't want big ol' scratches either. Anyone??

There is a H+ in the position that ;3G/EDGE/GSM would normally be on Blackberry phones. Is that the "4G" thing?

HSPA+, which is a 3G technology, but AT&T calls it 4G, and their H+ is notoriously slower than their 3G phones. So it's really a marketing stunt. It's not 4G like Verizon's LTE or even Sprint's Wimax.

The phone in use is running on Bell and on (their web-site) they advertise their "4G" as downloads of up to 42mbps and uploads of 7-14mbps which exceeds that of any U.S. carrier. Thanks for your response though

T-Mobile has 42 Mbps HSPA+, so you are wrong. Also, Verizon has LTE! All Canadian carriers are behind the curve when it comes to true speed, because LTE blows anything else out of the water. Verizon's network is expanding rapidly, with no 3-year contracts to boot. Also, RIM is making dumb mistakes by using H+ when they should just put "4G" like every other OS! Even the T-Mobile G2 was updated to say 4G rather than H+ because most people have no idea as to what HSPA+ is (though LTE is becoming very recognizable due to Verizon's advertising here in the U.S.). This phone will fail though, because nothing exceptional has come out from RIM for the consumer market (the BB OS applications suck hard, compared to Android and iOS; heck, they don't even have Angry Birds).

Think of it as 3.5G if that makes any sense lol. It's still technically 3G tech but it's also a "stepping stone" for Att until they deploy their lye later this year. From what I've seen Att speeds are more comprarable to sprints wimax.

[A BBM conversation between two acquaintances, with one successfully avoiding physical interaction with the other for several weeks after an "interesting" first date set up by mutual friends.]

"Hey Amy, are going to Jason's? I hear that the party's really starting to pick up and I was hoping that I'd see you there."

(2 minute delay in responding, after the little "D" changes to the little "R")

"Hey... Rick, I thought about it but I'm not sure if I'll be going tonight. Feeling a bit tired from work, you know? Maybe we can catch up later this week."
"Oh yeah that's cool, I wasn't sure if I was going to go either. Hope you can get some rest!"

(10 minutes go by...)

"Yeah, thanks Rick, I'm definitely staying in tonight."
"Oh, okay... though, I just walked in to the party and started playing around with the new Wikitude features for BBM to see other people I know here with BBM 6.0, and it's telling me that you're standing on the other side of Chris' apartment with a couple of my other BBM contacts..."

(Something tells me that it's going to be *much* harder to avoid people with Augmented Reality for BBM!)

LOL! Actually, the story's sort of based on true events, though I'm avoiding an old acquaintance from undergrad who's now at the same medical school as me (only seems to contact me when he wants something). I don't know if he has a BlackBerry but I definitely DO NOT have him on BBM.

Most of my friends have iphones and Androids :( Actually... I think i only know one with a bb still.....

Kevin is right, its going to be hard to choose my next phone with 3 nice phones to choose from. I like the features of the 9900 but being an iPhone user for the past 4 years I'm afraid I'm going to miss the big screen and virtual keyboard (yes I am one of those that prefers virtual...). So 9810 could be a good choice to have both BUT I don't like the bulk of that phone... 9850 is nice but somehow looks odd and the back looks weird... maybe I'll have to try them in the store.

But Telus doesn't seem to be carrying the 9850 so that might reduce the options..

Telus appears to be advertising the 9860. Same device. I would have thought they would be CDMA based with HSPA+.

Mr. K if any of u owned a nokia N95 u would be right next to me when i said we owned the future ..3D roller coster GREAT Game...had it on the N95 like 2 years ago...n95 was also my bluetooth mouse and my TV remote ps3 remote cable box remote u name it the n95 could do it 5mp .great phone... goes down in history in my we r seeing it on the blackberry...excellent...i have always carried my N95 for fun and my Blackberry for i can get rid of my nokia but still they make the BEST camera needs to get on the camera 7.2mp would be great....GO BLACKBERRY..the game is from the best game makers digital chocolate they make alot of 5 star games...gooooooooooo blackberry

PLLLLEASE!!! I'll pay double! Just let me get my hands on it now!

Very slick, very fast, very smooth, very HOT!!!

Pardon my ignorance, but HOW DOES "sticking with physical raised buttons
really makes the device more usable
with one hand."!! ??

Pardon my ignorance, but HOW DOES "sticking with physical raised buttons
really makes the device more usable
with one hand."!! ??

This phone is looking better to me than the 9900 but we'll have to see if the keyboard is any good. Does anybody know if OS7 BBs will still need to have their batteries pulled every so often?

Also, does it really matter that BB has nice new hardware rolling out if developers are abandoning the BB platform for Android and iOS? Will we all still be stuck with limited apps? This is one of my biggest concerns along with the future direction of RIM.

You would think that Kevin, with all of his contacts and access to inside information, would be able to get some indication as to whether Verizon will be carrying the 9850.

@Kishore Thaakur,

As a Storm2 user, I think they made the right choice on putting physical buttons. With the Storm2, the dedicated 'glass' buttons didn't always work, so you had to use the on-screen buttons. If you try to answer the phone but tilt it slightly, it reorients between portrait & landscape, and the 'Answer' button becomes the 'Hang up, don't bother me' button! It's so bad that I usually wait 3 rings to answer a call, and freeze like a statue.


I think what Kishore means is that RIM should have gone with the capacitive buttons like the Torch 9800 versus actual raised buttons like you'd see on a keyboard. So to relate it to the Storm, it would basically be the difference between the Storm1 (albeit more raised than those buttons) and the Storm2 (which was part of the haptic touchscreen).

I'm really questioning if Verizon will even get this. ATT and the rest will market as "4g" but if Verizon gets its, they wont be, right? So why would they sell it on one carrier as 4g and another as 3g.....

They should have made this device 2 years ago. Don't know what took them so long, but I'm glad they finally made it. It was pathetic that past devices didn't have a GPU in them.

and also why does he change the subject to bbm 6 whenever the mention the H+ instead of showing us how much faster the browser is?

I love this phone but it really pisses me off they only put 4gb of internal memory on it compared to the rest of the bunch. This is a premium handset, so why did they do that, it makes no sence! Also, I really wish they had added HDMI and WiDi and a front facing cam to all the phones. I do love this phone still though and that roller coaster game looks really cool but sluggish like it freezes or something.

How do you do an interview and forget to ask about how typing is on this device? or how users going from a keyboard to a touchscreen will be able to adapt... I noticed that also the website was already there, they didn't have them load the website on the phone, which makes me worry about what the load times really are.