Blackberry 9800 Torch Review – The First Ten Days

The 8900 is the first product that I’ve ever said “I just want a Blackberry bold with a touchscreen” and they’ve attempt to actually deliver what I spent 2 years awaiting, almost to the letter.

The Blackberry mobile User Interface is the most underated phone UI in the industry. Certainly not the pretiest (but not as backward feeling as Windows Phone 6.5 and before) its of purely a practical design. The RIM Blackberry O/S is all about productivity. For this I love it.

The subtleties of its genius are lost on anyone who has not owned a BB. Aside from awesome battery life and having had full multi-tasking since before the iPhone or Android were born, the biggest subtlety which is unique to Blackberrys is how if you enter into doing one task, but then switch to doing something else, it remembers the path by which, thru the UI, I started doing that task and if you return your task is still there frozen in time.

E.g. I go to the address book and begin composing an email. I need to check for something on the map. I use the red hangup key (which ALWAYS exits you in one click – genius again – but unlike the old iPhone home key has always frozen the state) and go into Google Maps. I then get a call; then I have to send an email in reply to someone else; so from mail inbox reply to someone, then start an SMS and realise I didn’t send the other first email. I go back to Address Book (via the fast key on the said of the handset) and its still there where I left it. This sounds convoluted but in practise its awesome.

Combine this with the fact its been dropped over 100 times and still works without a broken screen? This is a mobile warriers device.

So, bar the crap browser and limited apps my Blackberry Bold is probably the best modern phone and comms device on the market today.

NOW here comes the Torch.

So here’s the verdict. The Good:

  • Nice screen
  • Usual solid construction
  • Good touch control with all the gestures
  • Reasonably good battery
  • Retains much of the good UI
  • Everything else which is good about a Blackberry

And The Bad:

Blackberry has broken some key things which in my view are “untouchable” things they should not change and they need to fix, fast. Some are trivial some are more serious.

  • Paths not always adhered to – the beutifully simple task/path process I describe above no longer always works.
  • Red hangup key – this no longer exits to home in all situations with one click. It should.
  • Only one shortcut key – why? Its one button! Now I have no hardware shortcut for the camera.
  • Changing “SMS” to “Text” in the menu – just annoying
  • Moving “Send Txt” etc to a 2nd level menu in SOME situations – just plane stupid. Add another click? Why??
  • Animated scroll on context menu slows the ability to select items using the keyboard. I want fast- not pretty.
  • Broken calender main view- all day events don’t always show hiding at the top (annoying) and the flip animation again is slow to flip between the days. Other than to see one is busy the other views are pretty unhelpful
  • Contact entry/view- this is a disaster. Having to select “mobile” everytime from a dropdown? Madness. Its an attempt at making a pratical view look nice and for touch while breaking the essense of speed
  • SMS – why can’t I select a number and copy / paste or use the menu on it? The msg txt you can select the phone number you can’t. Annoying.
  • Paste icon – some views it appears, others it doesn’t, so this is inconsistent
  • Address book name entry/search – you have to manually delete the last search entry each time, the back key even when on focus, doesn’t do it.
  • CPU- it just seems a little slower

KEYBOARD – the new design is simply not as good as either of the last two bolds, large or smaller form factor. If its not broke don’t fix it. I’m used to it now but its simple not as accurate and the bottom of the phone and curved edges get in the way of pressing the keys around the edge of the keyboard.

KEYLOCK KEY – this is simply flawed. You put it on and it 75% of the time its off when it comes back out of your pocket. Dangerous.

So, I’m sure there’s more but that’s off the top of my head. Should you buy one? Simple- how much do you use the web? If its a lot then buy it. If not; stick to the non-touch.

This is their first slider, hopefully they’ll fix these issues; it is a challenge to combine key based UI and touch- but the rule should be an optimised keyboard based input control should always take priority because that is the only thing which is going to keep Blackberry and RIM as a major player in the mobile game. The keyboard. Ruin or compromise that; and Blackberry is going to become a much lesser 2nd or 3rd tier player.

..This review was written on my Blackberry Torch 9800 🙂


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