RIM looks to make a splash with $199 touchscreen BlackBerry Torch
Among the cavalcade of mobile superstars in this summerâ€™s smartphone extravaganza â€” which, so far, has boasted the likes of the HTC Evo 4G, the Motorola Droid X, a series of sleek Samsung Galaxy handsets, and (of course) the iPhone 4 â€” one marquee name has been noticeably absent: the BlackBerry.
Well, in the final weeks of summer, Research in Motion (along with carrier partner AT&T â€” and yes, we’re talking another AT&T exclusive here) is looking to make a better-late-than-never splash with the BlackBerry Torch 9800, a new QWERTY slider with a redesigned touchscreen OS that the mobile giant hopes can garner the same kind of buzz that Android handsets like the Evo and the Droid X and the new iPhone have been enjoying for the past few months. (Well, Apple probably didnâ€™t â€œenjoyâ€ all the â€œAntennagateâ€ buzz, but at least people were talking about it.)
Unveiled Tuesday morning at a packed press event in Manhattan, the widely leaked Torch â€” the “best BlackBerry ever,” as AT&T wireless head boss Ralph de la Vega bragged â€” will go on sale August 12 for $199 with a two-year AT&T contract, and it represents a departure for RIM in more ways than one.
First of all, itâ€™s not a candybar-style phone, as are the vast majority of BlackBerry handsets; instead, itâ€™s RIM’s first touch-enabled slider, with a full QWERTY keypad that slides down from beneath the 3.2-inch, 360-by-480 touchscreen.
Secondly, the 5.7-ounce, 0.6-inch-thick Torch (which is powered by a 624MHz processor with 512 MB of RAM) runs on BlackBerry OS 6, the new, touchscreen-friendly version of the BlackBerry operating system.
The revamped OS (which RIM unveiled earlier this year) boasts refinements such as a snazzier tabbed browser that automatically resizes and auto-formats text as you zoom in on Web pages, multitouch support across the board, universal search, multitasking, a unified inbox that integrates messages from Facebook and Twitter (along with a separate app that aggregates all your social and RSS feeds), menu lists that scroll with an iPhone-like â€œroulette-wheelâ€ motion and bouncy â€œrubberbandingâ€ action, wireless music sync (including a searchable directory of your entire music collection, even tracks you don’t have synced yet) customizable home screens, and improved touch-activated pop-ups â€” in short, features that bring the aging BlackBerry OS up (or at least closer) to speed with modern touch-enabled OSes like Android and iOS. (Another key BlackBerry OS 6 feature, by the way, it its ability to run legacy BlackBerry apps.)
Other features on the Torch include: a five-megapixel camera with a flash and auto-focus; four GB of internal storage plus a microSD memory expansion slot; GPS; Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; a 3.5mm headset jack; and a removable battery with (according to RIM) about six hours of talk time. AT&T’s (capped) data plans for the Torch start at $15 a month for 200MB of data or $25 a month for 2G of data.
The BlackBerry platform in general still commands more than 40 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, according to the latest ComScore figures; that said, RIMâ€™s share of the pie is slowly shrinking, while Apple (at 24.4 percent) and especially Android (13 percent, up from 9 percent in February) are rapidly closing the gap.
So, will the Torch 9800 draw the kind of Android- or iPhone-type buzz that RIM is clearly pining for? Iâ€™ll be getting up close and personal with the Torch right after todayâ€™s press briefing, so keep your eyes peeled for my initial hands-on impressions.
AT&T and Research in Motion Ignite Customers with the New BlackBerry Torch
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