The thin, light-weight design of this Torch, with its curvaceous lines; beautiful screen resolution; and excellent web browser make this into an excellent media-consumption device. BBM, email, and a redesigned virtual keyboard make it worthy of the name BlackBerry.
The Video - Torch 9850 First Walkthrough
Everything you need to know about the BlackBerry Torch 9850 in a bit more than 10 minutes! Perhaps not everything, but you'll get a good overview of this brand-new full touch BlackBerry.
Youtube Link (expand video for full view)
The BlackBerry Torch 9850 / 9860 Re-Review
Five new BlackBerry 7 Smartphones in three distinct form factors:
BlackBerry Torch 9810 (slider), BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 (full keyboard), BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 (touch only)
After months of waiting, new BlackBerry Smartphones are here. We're now witnessing the largest world-wide launch by Research In Motion, with new OS7-powered Smartphones coming to 225 carriers an distribution partners from around the globe. All of these new phones are based on the same hardware and software platforms, with only slightly more than the form factor differentiating the devices. Choosing between these several devices really comes down to how you want to use your phone.
The BlackBerry Torch 9850 and the 9860 are full-screen BlackBerry Smartphones. The 9850/60 trades the physical keyboard found in many RIM devices for a much larger screen and a rather thin profile. The 9850 used for this review is the CDMA version used on networks like Verizon and Sprint. Running on GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile, the 9860 is its closely-related cousin. Except for the network radio, these two models are essentially the same phone.
Why a Take Two Review? This review of the BlackBerry Torch 9850 / 9860 follows up Kevin's previous review of the BlackBerry Torch 9860 and Adam's previous review of the BlackBerry Torch 9850. With both Kevin and Adam being "physical keyboard guys," we wanted to provided a followup review from the perspective of a BlackBerry user who is a big fan of the BlackBerry touchscreen keyboard. You'll want to check out all the reviews to get your full understanding of this great full touchscreen BlackBerry to help you decide if its the new BlackBerry 7 Smartphone for you.
BlackBerry Torch 9850 /9860 Hardware Impressions
Before getting too far into this review, I'd like to make one thing clear. If you use your BlackBerry to frequently send messages hundreds of words long, If you live inside of BlackBerry Messenger, or if you don't like typing on glass (actually plastic in this case), you will not like the Torch 9850. And that's okay, Research In Motion has already made the perfect phone for you, the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930.
Research In Motion makes BlackBerry Smartphones in a variety of form factors because the company realizes that different people have different priorities for their mobile devices. The Torch 9850/9860 was made for a specific type of BlackBerry user, namely me. I write that in jest, but there is a grain of truth behind it. I don't do an incredible amount of messaging; I watch movies, TV, and videos frequently on my smartphone; and I enjoy browsing the internet. While a full-keyboard is a must-have for many people, I much prefer the larger screen and thinner size offered by the Torch 9850/9860.
On first look at the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860, a few things are immediately noticeable. The screen seems much more elongated than anything we've seen previously under the Storm or Torch names. The colorless buttons on the front jut from the surface of the phone. At 11.5 mm, the Torch 9850/9860 is the thinnest full-touch BlackBerry to date, 16% thinner than the Storm 2 and 20% thinner than the Torch 9800. In short, this phone is neither the Storm 3 or the Torch 2; it is altogether something better.
Appearance, Form Factor, Build Quality
Holding the BlackBerry Torch 9850 in my hands for the first time, I was immediately awestruck and impressed with the physical design of the device. While it may not be especially clear in pictures, the Torch 9850/9860 is sculpted to fit exactly into the hands and perfectly balanced. Everything about the phone seems designed to meet those very important specifications.
Looking at the back of the Smartphone, you'll notice that the battery door is sunk into the back of the device, forming two raised areas at either end of the phone. These two raised areas are essential to comfortably holding the phone. Whether holding in one hand or two, landscape or portrait, your fingers naturally use these areas to grip and support the BlackBerry.
The back of the device is simple, with only the metallic BlackBerry logo - like the one found on the BlackBerry PlayBook - for adornment. Although Kevin's review unit lacked carrier branding, this carrier unit was tastefully branded at the bottom of the battery door. The metal battery door, I might add. I've not been a fan of the plastic doors found on most BlackBerry Smartphones, with the Curve 3G being the worst offender. To me, that touch of a metal battery door makes this Torch feel even more solid than it already is.
Noticeably absent is any sort of name for this device. On my Torch 9800, the name is emblazoned in large letters next to the camera. The Torch 9850 bears none of this insignia. I might argue, however, that the look of the device alone is statement enough.
After removing the battery cover, you'll find the same JM-1 battery that is also found in the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930. Above that, you'll see the SIM and microSD card slots, presumably filled with SIM and microSD cards, respectively. I like that the SD card can be removed without taking out the battery. Removal of the SIM card is a different story; the battery must be removed first. Since I don't plan to frequently swap SIM cards, it's really not an issue.
At the top of the device is the 5 megapixel camera and light; more on that later.
Turning to the front of the Torch 9850/9860, the top and bottom are formed into rounded areas, sometimes called "waterfalls." These areas add stylish touch to this new BlackBerry, beautifully extending its simple, elegant design from the front to the back. These waterfalls are not just a design choice; they serve a practical function, as well. Held in landscape, the ends of the phone are again naturally and comfortably gripped by the hands. Hold a Torch 9800 or 9810 in the same way, and it will not sit nearly as nicely as does the 9850/9860.
The buttons on the front of this touchscreen BlackBerry are a rather radical departure from what is normally found on a BlackBerry. Like the other OS7 devices, the buttons have lost their color. Though having different icons on them, all four buttons are uniformly white. It's a stylistic choice that adds a great deal of quiet elegance to the device.
On every BlackBerry I've known of, the buttons - Call, Menu, Back, and End Call - have been set flush against the front of the phone. With the Torch 9850/9860 the buttons stick up from the surface of the Smartphone. It's not a great distance, but it is noticeable. In the Torch 9850/9860, I'm fairly certain that raising the buttons was a design choice to give us a thinner phone. Every button and key has a certain travel distance. Placing the travel distance above the surface means that same distance doesn't have to be concealed within the device.
The small size of the buttons restates the thin, light profile of the Torch 9850/9860. Certainly large enough to be of use, the raised buttons also make them easy to find in the dark. Since the Torch 9850 essentially feels the same way whether held right side up or upside down, the buttons help you to orient your device in low light situations. Or, as in my case, you can't find your glasses in the morning.
Along the right side of the Torch 9850/9860, you'll find the volume and the play/pause/mute buttons as well as the device's lone convenience key and the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack. The buttons are tiny and very thin. I do not doubt for a minute that this was a design choice to further emphasize the Smartphone's thinness. But being a person with large-ish hands, the small size of these keys definitely gave me pause for concern. Holding the device, I found my concerns were unfounded. These buttons are designed to be felt by the hands rather than seen by the eyes.
True, they are difficult to see, but they are easy to use. Nestled between the two volume keys is the Play/Pause/Mute key. It is this key that is the...well, key to the three button combination. Running a finger down the side of the device, this small nub between the two larger keys is easily identifiable by touch. From there, it is a simple matter to figure out which key raises and which key lowers the volume.
Below the media control buttons is the one convenience key; admittedly is the most difficult of the thin side-keys to press, especially when holding the phone in portrait mode. It's a two stage key, designed to be used with the autofocus camera. Pressing the key in halfway focuses the camera; completely pressing it takes the picture. However, many people use the convenience key not to take pictures, but to launch other programs.
To do this requires the key to be pressed completely in to its second stage. I found this quite awkward to press this convenience key completely while the phone is held portrait-wise in one hand. Rather than blaming this on the size of the key, I think this is more an issue with the key being placed so low on the device. On the other hand, holding the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 in landscape mode, the convenience key is perfectly positioned for taking pictures.
On the left side of the device, centered, is a standard micro USB port. Use it to connect the 9850/9860 to a computer or charge the device. Keep in mind that all micro USB chargers are not created equally. Even older BlackBerry chargers may not work properly with this device. The charger that ships with the BlackBerry PlayBook, however, juices this phone PDQ (Pretty Darn Quick).
At the top of the Torch 9850/9860, you'll find the lock button. This is the only button at the top and it covers the entire top waterfall of the BlackBerry. Since it's a part of the waterfall, the button blends in seamlessly with the rest of the device. Also at the top are the handset speaker (for calls) and the iconic BlackBerry notification light.
Along the bottom waterfall, you'll find the microphone and the device's main speaker. I really like the speaker in this Torch. In the original Torch 9800, the speaker pointed away from you, the user. In the Torch 9850/9860, the speaker points towards you, sending the best, loudest sound possible straight to its user.
All of this design work goes in to support the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860's most important and prominent feature, a large 800x480 touchscreen. With a pixel density of 253 ppi, this screen renders the BlackBerry OS and videos in beautiful color and stunning depth. BlackBerry as a touch experience has improved greatly over the years. With liquid graphics and a 1.2 GHz snapdragon processor, BlackBerry comes to life on this screen.
Processor / Chipset / Performance
All of the newly-announced BlackBerry 7 Smartphones, including the BlackBerry Torch 9850 and 9860, are running the Qualcomm Scorpion MSM 8655 processor clocked at 1.2GHz on the Snapdragon chipset. An Adreno 205 GPU (graphics processing unit) is also onboard, powering BlackBerry 7's hardware accelerated graphics, which RIM has trademarked "Liquid Graphics." At 1.2 GHz, this BlackBerry Smartphone powers through every process and runs nearly twice as fast as my Torch 9800. In addition, the new GPU finally provides the necessary hardware for 3D graphics and games.
The dreaded hourglass, while by no means completely absent, is largely irrelevant. Even while hourglassing, the device is still usable in its normal fashion. The fast processor and Liquid Graphics really bring the BlackBerry experience we've all been waiting for.
The most important part of this BlackBerry is its touchscreen; almost everything you do on this device will be controlled here. The 480x800 display fits into a 3.7" inch screen, packing 253 pixels into every inch of that display. The result is a rich, vibrant display that makes text easy to read and videos a joy to watch.
I really like the size of this screen; it's not overly obnoxiously large like some smartphones yet large enough to comfortably watch a movie. The screen's 5:3 aspect ratio is much closer to the 16:9 that has become the standard for High Definition. Videos filmed in this format look marvelous on the Torch 9850/9860, with only tiny black slivers at the top and bottom of the image to frame it.
Accuracy has improved with this latest Torch. I have large fingers that press upon relatively large portions of the screen, yet the touchscreen and the BlackBerry OS virtually always understand what I'm trying to do. Interestingly enough, only the barest touch of the finger is actually needed. Several times I had to look closely to make sure the Smartphone wasn't somehow detecting my finger mid-air.
Unlike the Torch 9800, the 9850/9860's screen is made of a scratch-resistant plastic. In his review, Kevin noticed a bit of a tendency for his fingers to get stuck as he's using the screen. I noticed this too, but for me it wasn't as big of a problem. It may be because my screen is not as clean as Kevin's. Apologies if this sounds crude; unhygienic; or nasty, but I've always thought a nice layer of fingerprint oils makes for a better touch experience. Whether touching on glass or plastic, the natural oils of fingerprints make it easier to slide my fingers along the screen. It does make the device look less attractive when the screen is turned off, but that's a compromise I'm willing to accept.
The keyboard on the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 does take a little time to master, especially if you're accoustomed to typing on the Torch 9800's virtual keyboard. The virtual keyboard on this OS7 device takes on the style of the one used on the Blackbery PlayBook. Most notably, the shift and numbers keys have been reversed. Ultimately, I think this is a wise decision. It makes typing numbers and symbols much easier and standardizes the keyboard across the BlackBerry brand. Other things have changed for the better as well. The Enter/OK/Send key has been moved further away from the backspace key. On the 9800's virtual keyboard, I was constantly sending incomplete messages when all I wanted to do was to correct a small error quickly.
On the keyboard, the keys themselves are smaller, but a bit more spread out. This makes it easier to find and use the correct key. Also on board is a small arrow at the top of the keyboard; tapping the arrow hides the keyboard. This a nice feature for those who had trouble with the Hide Keyboard gesture on the 9800, but I find myself hitting the button quite frequently when trying to type a t or a y. Given the chance, I would much prefer a way to disable this arrow.
One disappointment is with the portrait style keyboard. For whatever reason, I find myself typing more errors and correcting more words while using that mode. Landscape keyboard, now that's a completely different story. As I write this keyboard section using the virtual keyboard of the Torch 9850/9860, I become more and more comfortable with this landscape version. Keys are well spaced, and the processor keeps up with my thumbs as they do their dance across the letters. The BlackBerry OS, too, keeps up with me as I type, suggesting words, correcting my spelling, and substituting words so that il changes to I'll.
Unlike the Torch 9800, the Torch 9850 was made to be used in landscape. Sure you could type in landscape on the 9800, but that Smartphone is much more oriented to the portrait. No, this latest, full-screen Torch was meant to be used horizontally.
The waterfalls, as they've been called, are the areas at either end of the Smartphone. While they add an elegant, stylish look to the device, they are functional as well. Holding the phone, the waterfalls allow your hands to comfortably wrap around the device, protecting it and making the phone stable while you type. On the back, the raised areas of the camera and bottom sections are designed to make it easier for those hands to grip. Finally, the keyboard is now wide enough that your two thumbs don't collide as they both reach toward the center of the device.
Plastic, not glass forms the touch surface on the new 9850. It is a scratch-resistant plastic and chosen to reduce the weight and thickness of the device. I actually find it easier to type on than glass. There's a certain bounce that the surface provides, making typing on the virtual keyboard that much faster.
I'll certainly agree that this virtual keyboard might not be the way to go for some people. For folks like me though, it's perfect. I don't do a large amount of typing on my Smartphone, even when I had one with a physical keyboard. If you're a heavy messager, pounding out 200 word emails by the handful, then this keyboard is not right for you. If however, you don't mind typing on glass (sorry, plastic), then there's not too much to hate about this keyboard. And a whole lot to like.
With 768 MB of RAM, the device has plenty of space to run the device and store applications. It seem unfortunate that only 192 of these MB are available for applications on the phone. There are perhaps a few reasons for this. A large chunk of the memory goes into running the Operating system; another large chunk is reserved for Graphics Processing Unit and Liquid Graphics. I also believe - though we've received no official word of this - that another large chunk is reserved for RAM operations. Hourglassing on a BlackBerry usually occurs when the device can't find enough RAM to do its job. With more memory specifically reserved for RAM, hourglassing would be greatly reduced - as we've seen with these latest OS7 devices.
Even with only 192 MB available for applications, a person would hardly be limited by that. BlackBerry applications are typically small in file size, usually taking up no more than a handful of megabytes at a time. Even a graphically intense program like 3D Rollercoaster Rush Jurassic 2 only uses 2.2 MB of application storage. The application itself is small, but the hundreds of MB's of graphics that download with it are not. These are stored on the device's internal storage and do not occupy any application storage space.
The first day I used the BlackBerry Torch 9850, the battery was amazing. I got the phone around 11 a.m., connected it to my WiFi network, and that thing lasted all day. Seeing as how this was my first day with a brand-new BlackBerry, I really put the phone through its paces. As midnight rolled around, the battery indicator finally shifted to red.
The next day was different; I turned off WiFi. I had heard the battery lasted much longer while the phone was able to use WiFi for its data; so I decided to put that to the test. Taking the phone off the charger at 9 a.m., I went through my BlackBerry day as usual. By 8 in the evening, the indicator had turned red and the LED was flashing yellow. Still, that's a solid 11 hours of BlackBerry time.
Another factor in this must be signal strength. Even with my Torch 9800, I've noticed a severe battery drain when using the phone in an area of weak coverage. Just the simple act of trying to stay connected to the network - not even making calls or receiving text messages - was enough to put a heavy strain on the battery. When I experienced a similar phenomenon with the 9850 (on a different network than my 9800), I checked the coverage map. Sure enough, everywhere I had been that day was in a "good" coverage zone with 2-3 bars being the norm.
If you spend your days with WiFi providing data and/or in an area of good network coverage, I'm willing to bet the battery in 9850/9860 is able to keep you going well past 18 hours. If however, you live in a rural area with poor network coverage, I might suggest investing in a spare battery.
Phone & Audio
The phone works. Actually it worked better than my Torch 9800. On the few test calls I made, I had no problem with the other party hearing or understanding me. As I said, I once switched phones in the middle of a conversation with a marked improvement on both ends of call when using the 9850. I like the headset speaker - the one at the top - a great deal better than previous BlackBerry speakers. Whether that's the small size of the device making it easier to hold against the ear or some real improvement to the speaker, I don't know. People just sound better on this Torch 9850.
The large speaker, the speakerphone speaker, is positioned at the bottom of the Smartphone, facing the user. I found this speaker to be a bit louder than I am accustomed to and appreciated it. I may be wrong, but it sounds as though this speaker has a wider range as well. Playing the same music file on the Torch 9800 and the Torch 9850, the newer Smartphone seemed to play a few notes that the first-generation Torch did not.
The 5 MP camera on the BlackBerry Torch 9850 is a fairly impressive one. Possessing the auto-focus feature that I so enjoy on a BlackBerry, the camera is able to take still pictures at an incredible resolution, up to 2560x1920. High Definition video comes to the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 as well, allowing you to capture video at 720p resolution.
For the most part, the auto-focus works well and keeps the appropriate subject in focus. During some of the video recording though, I did notice the auto-focus having a bit of trouble keeping up with me. Most of the time, the AF quickly adjusts itself, but there's one instance in the video that takes quite a while to focus properly. I doubt this problem is hardware-related and might possibly be improved in a future OS update.
This small glitch aside, I'm very pleased with the Torch 9850/9860's camera. Colors come out bright and clear, with a high resolution. Shooting in low light? No problem. The Torch 9850/9860 keeps the very bright video light I've come to expect from the Torch name.
The Webkit-based web browser found on this OS7 device is an amazing leap forward for the BlackBerry Browser. Even full sites - not just their mobile counterparts - load quickly. Better still, you can actually interact with pages while they are loading. Previously, you really had no choice but to wait while the entire page loaded.
Videos play inside the browser. While this is technically possible on older OS6 models, it rarely actually worked. On my Torch 9800, I've seen it work only a handful of times. On the Torch 9850/9860, HTML5 videos play without too much difficulty beyond the initial time to load and buffer the video. On a site like CrackBerry.com, we provide YouTube links so the videos can play full-screen. This is not true of most of the web; not to mention the fact that YouTube is hardly the source of every video. Though the BlackBerry's browser will not play Flash video (few mobile devices actually have that capability), many videos on the web are now in HTML5 format. And those certainly play nice with the Torch 9850/9860's web browser.
Touch accuracy has some room for improvement in the web browser. Following a link can sometimes be hit or miss. The web browser also has a tenency to follow the same, incorrect link after returning to a page. This is something that should be easy to fix with a future OS update.
The image quality on the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 is nothing short of amazing. 253 pixels fill each inch. It's not just the pixel density that makes this BlackBerry screen so stunning. A 800x480 WVGA screen is a great resolution for watching movies, TV, and other high-definition video .
As a test, I loaded up the exact same Doctor Who clip on both the Torch 9800 and the Torch 9850. The 9850's screen put the 9800's screen to shame. The same video on the 9860 showed much more clarity, depth, and color than on the older Torch's screen. I've always enjoyed watching movies on that Torch; I'll enjoy watching movies on the Torch 9850/9860 even more.
Other Internals - Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi , Other Sensors
Bluetooth: Bluetooth is an essential technology for any modern smartphone, and the Torch 9850/9860 is no exception. Most people don't consider that streaming audio to a Bluetooth device takes processing power. On my Torch 9800, I was never able to watch videos and listen with Bluetooth headphones. The delay caused by the processing made audio go out of snyc with the video. That's not a problem with the 9860. Finally, I can watch videos without wires.
GPS: The GPS system on the BlackBerry Torch 9860 is improved over that found in the 9800. The system much more quickly contacts satellites to get a position fix.
WiFi: WiFi works and works quite well. Connecting to the router using WiFi Protected Setup was a breeze with the 9850 connecting faster than most of the internet devices at the house. The 802.11 a/b/n radio should have no trouble connecting to any WiFi access point. Unlike the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930, the Torch 9850/9860 does not access those 5 GHz wireless networks.
WiFi Hotspot / NFC: Both are absent from this BlackBerry Torch. Neither prove to be any great loss. It is rumored that future OS updates may add the Mobile Hotspot feature to the device, but it's not certain if or when this feature would be introduced.
As of this writing, the Bold 9900/9930 is the only BlackBerry to support NFC out of the box, along with the newly-announced BlackBerry Curves 9350/9360/9370. Though exciting, NFC is still an emerging technology with little practical use as of yet. Times may change; if so, third-party NFC solutions for your BlackBerry are available.
BlackBerry Torch 9850 / 9860 Accessories
Whenever I get a new BlackBerry, there are two accessories I must have: a case and a charging pod. The first is completely practical. I need a case for the Torch 9850/9860 because I'm a bit of a klutz. My phone gets dropped, struck, and generally banged around through no fault of my own; gravity is my enemy. I need the protection of a case as soon as possible.
My other favorite accessory is the charging pod. I really like how these tiny little pieces of hardware transform my BlackBerry into a bedside alarm clock. Plus, there's the whole benefit of charging the BlackBerry while it's in the pod. Without the BlackBerry charging pod sitting beside my bed, I'm more likely than not to forget to charge my Smartphone. In addition, there's a whole slew of accessories for the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 to discover and enjoy. One of my favorite things about getting a new BlackBerry is getting all the "toys" that go with it!
Browse and Buy BlackBerry Torch 9850 Cases & Accessories
Browse and Buy BlackBerry Torch 9860 Cases & Accessories
BlackBerry Torch 9850 /9860 Hardware Wrap-Up
Overall, and as you may have guessed from the rest of the review, I am very impressed with the hardware and the capabilities of this BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860. The screen is bright, vivid, and responsive. Movies look better on this BlackBerry than any other BlackBerry I've used. The processor is fast, super fast.
I know this gets mentioned quite a lot in this review, but this is a big deal for BlackBerry. Since the early days of the RIM 950 "Leapfrog," Research In Motion chose to sacrifice processing power to get more battery life from the device. BlackBerry Smartphones are known for lasting days on a single battery charge. While the 1.2 GHz Snapdragon processor certainly puts a strain on the JM-1 battery, the Torch 9850/9860 will make it through a day at the office on that same single charge. It will go even longer if the device is in an area of good network coverage or has access to WiFi.
What most impresses me about this touchscreen Torch is the sculpted and elegant design of the form factor. It is sleek, svelte, and oh so nice to look at. Showing the device to my friends, they were rather confused as to why I had an Android device. Certainly, I could forgive them for that mistake; this phone does not look like what one usually expects from a BlackBerry.
The back, front, and sides are designed to comfortably sit in the hand. Whether held in portrait or landscape, the raised ends and flowing waterfalls make the device feel like it was customized to fit in my hands. Ultimately, that is the BlackBerry's goal. First and foremost, BlackBerry Smartphones are communications devices. The shape of the device makes that communication even easier. The hardware design elements work together so that when you're holding the phone comfortably in your hands, you're also holding it securely and ready for messaging.
BlackBerry 7 OS Impressions
BlackBerry OS 7 is not incredibly different from BlackBerry OS6. Indeed, BlackBerry OS 7 was once referred to as OS 6.1. It's the hardware changes to these latest BlackBerry Smartphones that forced the version number increase. This OS simply will not run on older BlackBerry phones; they lack the graphical acceleration and magnetometer found in the BlackBerry Torch 9860 and the other OS7 phones. With the new OS 7, users coming from an older BlackBerry device will have no trouble with the familiar BlackBerry experience - on steroids.
That being said, there are a number of small difference in the new OS experience. Menus and popup windows appear and disappear with a little more grace. I've noticed a lot more - and smoother - animation of dialog boxes and popup notifications (like the volume indicator). The boxy selector used to highlight text in OS6 is gone, replaced by the simple indicator arrow found in the latest versions of the BlackBerry PlayBook's OS. Users can now customize what panes appear on the home screen. If you'll pardon the pun, it was a real pain to have to sort through panes to find what you were looking for. Users can even drop down to a single pane, replicating that OS5 home screen that they've missed. As I use this device more and more, I'm confident I will find a number of these small tweaks. It's clear that Research In Motion has been gathering some feedback on how people use their BlackBerry Smartphones. More importantly, they listened.
Most joyous about the latest BlackBerry OS is the improved web browser. Research In Motion states that the browser on the OS7 devices is 40% faster than the one found on the Torch 9800 and 100% faster than the browser on OS5 devices. BlackBerry Smartphones have never been known for their exceptional browsers. That may change.
The Webkit-based browser found on the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 is amazing. Pages load very, very quickly. I've always felt that the browser on my Torch 9800 wasn't slow necessarily because of the wireless mobile network; it is because the device can't process the data quickly enough. The Torch 9850/9860 has more than enough horsepower to get the job done fast.
Also a very nice feature inside the web browser of the 9850/9860 is the ability to play HTML5 videos right inside that browser. Not every site uses YouTube for their videos as CrackBerry.com does. As many websites move to using HTML5 video players, more and more videos will be playable on your BlackBerry.
I really like how the hardware and the software on the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 have come together to produce a superior device. The device feels good in the hands, and the OS is snappy under the fingers. This is the next generation of BlackBerry, and it's a good one.
BlackBerry Torch 9850 /9860 Conclusions
To me, one of the most striking things about the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 has nothing to do with the device. It's the fact that the opinions of the new Torch can vary so widely. For example, while CrackBerry's founder Kevin Michaluk liked a lot of design aspects of the phone, overall he did not like this phone nearly as much as I, largely due to the user experience of the BlackBerry OS in the absence of a keyboard (he does like the touchscreen experience on the PlayBook tablet). And that's okay.
As much as Kevin thinks RIM built the BlackBerry Bold 9900, which posesses a front-facing physical keyboard, just for him, I can't help but think RIM built the BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 just for me, and for other BlackBerry users like me. The lack of a physical keyboard will certainly dissuade some from upgrading to this particular BlackBerry. For me though, the larger sized screen and oh-so thin design of the Torch 9850/9860 are well worth the loss of a physical keyboard.
The curved and flowing lines of the Torch 9850/9860 were designed to let me hold the BlackBerry comfortably as I type in landscape on the redesigned keyboard. The large, colorful screen shows me movies and videos with clarity I've never seen before on a BlackBerry. Web browsing is a dream, plain and simple. Pages load quickly and videos play right inside the browser. I visit a lot of websites with video; on the Torch 9850/9860, I can finally view them. All in all, BlackBerry OS7 on this new Torch is faster, snappier, better. It is the BlackBerry experience I've always wanted.
I've always praised Research In Motion for its options. With BlackBerry, there is oftentimes no one way to do something. There are multiple ways to accomplish the same feat, allowing users to do things their way. I call this BlackBerry Choice. I've usually used this to refer to something in the BlackBerry Operating System, but I feel it applies to the form factors of the BlackBerry Smartphones as well.
We here at CrackBerry and indeed Smartphone Experts have always been firm believers in the fact that there is no perfect Smartphone. Generally, we've applied that to the platforms as a whole. A BlackBerry isn't by definition better than an Android phone. An iPhone isn't better than a BlackBerry. But I think it goes even deeper than that. There is no one BlackBerry Smartphone perfect for everyone. Again, that's okay. Research In Motion has four new BlackBerry OS7 devices on the market. And so we say there's no one BlackBerry perfect for everyone, only the BlackBerry that is perfect for you.
BlackBerry Torch 9850 / 9860 Summary
- A very quick BlackBerry experience
- Sculpted, designed, and balanced to fit perfectly in the hand
- High resolution screen makes for awesome video
- Web browsing is fast and responsive
- 720p HD Video recording
- Virtual keyboard redesigned to prevent incorrect keystrokes
- Decent battery, but low coverage areas cause a heavy drain
- Portrait-style keyboard results in an increase in typing errors; landscape is just fine, though
- No physical keyboard could hold back some users
Things We're Watching For
- 3D Games
- WiFi Hotspot (it's apparently supported by the chipset)
- Apps and Games; this BlackBerry is quick. We need apps to take advantage