BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

Summary: Executives called the BlackBerry Torch 9800 "the best BlackBerry ever" at its launch event on Tuesday. However, journalists and analysts weren't so sure. Read their reactions.


Tuesday was BlackBerry's big day. Anticipation had been building for it since WES 2010 in April when the company first teased BlackBerry 6, and BlackBerry enthusiasts have been waiting for it throughout 2010 as iPhone and Android amped up their smartphones and made BlackBerry look increasing outdated.

What AT&T and RIM executives proceeded to show off on Tuesday was the new BlackBerry Torch 9800 (right), which is the first smartphone to run BlackBerry 6, has a revamped multitouch interface, and features the traditional BlackBerry keyboard in a slide-down form factor.

AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega opened Tuesday's launch event for the Torch 9800 by saying, "Today, AT&T and RIM are introducing the best BlackBerry ever." That was a pretty high bar to hit and we'll be debating in the coming weeks about whether the Torch really clears it. However, the initial reactions from tech journalists and analysts have been lukewarm.

Here is a round-up of first impressions and initial observations from a variety of thought leaders and publications.

Michael Gartenberg / Analyst

"While RIM met the bar, they didn't do much to raise it higher or push the envelope in either hardware or software design. In world where every vendor is working to up their game, raise the bar and drive new innovation in hardware and software, it felt RIM barely stepped up. Among the things I'd have liked to seen would be a widget architecture for glanceable information, a front facing camera for video conferencing (which I expect to be table-stakes on leading edge devices by year end), hotspot capabilities, and a much larger and higher-res screen." (Read full article)

Bonnie Cha / CNET

"The handset itself is solid and is still compact enough to comfortably sit in a pants pocket. The combination of the touch screen and physical QWERTY keyboard gives you the best of both worlds, but we were really disappointed that it had a lower-resolution screen. The display is clear enough that you can read text and view media with no problem, but after using the high-res displays on smartphones like the Samsung Vibrant and Motorola Droid X, the Torch's screen looks pretty archaic... With a 624MHz processor, the smartphone felt a little underpowered and just didn't feel as snappy as some of the latest phones on the market. Though RIM made some great enhancements to the platform, it would have been nice if it had also improved the hardware." (Read full article)

Joshua Topolsky / Engadget

"We still feel like this device is a generation behind the market. Instead of meeting the rising stars of the smartphone world (Apple and Google) head-on, RIM has taken something more like baby steps toward innovation... The Torch seems sluggish, underpowered, and dated from a hardware design standpoint, and BlackBerry 6, despite its new features and polish, still feels woefully behind the curve. To call the Torch the 'best BlackBerry ever' wouldn't be an understatement, but unfortunately for RIM and the faithful, their best isn't nearly good enough." (Read full article)

Lance Ulanoff / PCMag

"The BlackBerry Torch is not an Apple iPhone killer--and that is okay... Unlike the ill-conceived BlackBerry Storm, there is no ridiculous gimmick in the BlackBerry Torch. Instead, it's the product of a lot of smart, clear-headed thinking about what existing BlackBerry users--like me--want... This is the device that, while it won't best the iPhone 4, should drag RIM away from its perch as a provider of cheap or free smart phones." (Read full article)

Harry McCracken / Technologizer

"Overall, the phone feels like the result of an array of decisions made to keep current BlackBerry owners comfortable. I suspect that RIM is also working on a BlackBerry superphone--a more potent, forward-looking device that may or may not have a physical keyboard--but this isn't it." (Read full article)

Rob Enderle / Analyst

"RIM's potential last chance to save itself came this week in the form of the new BlackBerry Torch... The Torch is a return to RIM's roots, and a nice advancement on what has come before. Much like Apple tends to be successful by improving on its own model and has stumbled when copying others, so has RIM in the past. The Torch represents what may be a very Apple-like strategy of being true to RIM's origins. People aren't all the same, and considering RIM has a higher market share than Apple does right now, that could work out well for them... In short, the Torch doesn't win any wars. It just assures that RIM remains in the fight, and will likely win a number of battles." (Read full article)

Jonathan Geller / Boy Genius Report

"On one hand, [BlackBerry] OS 6 is a much better UI leap from OS 5 than OS 5 was to OS 4, but it still feels a bit not thought out. On the other hand, the device seems like it will continue to excel at specific functions, mainly email, any sort of text-based messaging, etc. My personal thought so far is: This is a stop gap device for current BlackBerry users... iPhone 4 or recent Android owners won't be lusting after the 9800." (Read full article)


"The Torch and BlackBerry OS 6 take what BlackBerry's already doing and move it forward slightly-they're not reinventing, overturning, or blowing up things. Even the sorta kinda half-crazy slider design of the Torch feels fundamentally like a BlackBerry... in a way-existing BlackBerry users who just want the same thing will probably love this. But is that enough anymore? Here's the question: Do people simply want a better BlackBerry or do they want something else, something completely new that also happens to be good at all the things BlackBerry is good at?" (Read full article)

My full review... coming soon

So the general consensus from the tech press was that the BlackBerry Torch 9800 might be enough to satisfy loyal BlackBerry users so that they don't jump to another platform, but it might not be enough to win over consumers and business professionals who are buying a new smartphone and are comparing the Torch to the iPhone or the top of the line Android devices.

I think that's a fair assessment, so far. But, I will say that throughout the day on Tuesday I had a running Twitter search on the the term "BlackBerry" that I followed in order to gauge the public's reaction. Most of the comments were posted by existing BlackBerry users who were clearly enthusiastic about upgrading their current BlackBerry phones to the Torch. There were probably 20 positive comments to every one negative comment, and most of the negative comments were around the device being limited to AT&T or BlackBerry 6 not being available on more of the legacy BlackBerry devices.

I'm expecting a review unit of the BlackBerry Torch in the next week. And then, I will spend some quality one-on-one time with the device and write up a thorough review of the pros and cons from a business and IT perspective.

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, BlackBerry

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  • others are reporting that "blackberry torch"

    has been trending on twitter since yesterday. There's buzz.
    • Well...

      @rtk Not enough of the right kind of buzz for the Torch.
  • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

    As a Blackberry user for over 10 years, and a recent convert to the iPhone 3Gs, I am looking for a reason to go back. My Blackberry never failed me when it came to email, phone, text or Outlook syncing... my iPhone is a telephonic disaster!! They shoud be marketing it as a pocket computer and not a phone... I average 3 dropped calls per day. While the apps are great, let's face it.. it's primary function is a phone. The Torch, while not an iPhone killer, might be all the reason I need to come back to hardware that actually does what it's supposed to do. I'm still going to investigate a Droid, but reviews over how poorly it syncs with Outlook have me concerned.

    My torch is still burning for Blackberry!
    • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

      @ratherbeinmaui You must be in the minority..the only dropped calls I have are in my house, which has a lot of shielded material...and as for Outlook, I've never had an issue synching with Exchange. The iPhone is all things to all people...I have found that since getting it I really don't use the phone all that much anymore, between texting, email, and social networking I get all the communication done I need virtually!
    • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

      I switched from Blackberry to iPhone 3G primarily because the Blackberry software to sync contacts/calendars/etc. froze my Mac. Once switched, I was happy for a while, but since the advent of iPad and increase in data traffic and subscribers and OS updates, my iPhone is now reeeeaally slow (and not a fantastic telephone and overpriced). I'd go back to Blackberry if they had Mac-friendly software, but they don't. And Blackberry/T-Mobile and the software maker were all amazingly unresponsive and unhelpful when I tried to rectify the issues I was having, so it appears they simply don't give a crap. Bummer. They're missing a chance to poach lots of ATT/Apple customers.
  • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

    Truthfully I don't think that the reactions of the Apple/Google centric tech media are going to matter much here....what matters is the reaction of the RIM faithful, and from what I have seen the reaction is overwhelmingly positive....everywhere I have gone I have seen little but positive buzz about the Torch
    Doctor Demento
  • If it were on Sprint and Verizon....

    it would be more positive. COME ON RIM. NO EXCLUSIVE CARRIER DEALS.
    • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

      @condelirios I have to admit as a BB user I'm pretty excited about the Torch... but NOT on AT&T. I'd like to see a VZW version of it and then if I'm impressed enough when I play with it in the store then I'll snag it and sell by new Curve on eBay...
  • Not a big surprise

    It has 3 strikes against it:
    1. AT&T
    2. History of poor quality construction in new Blackberries
    3. Not keeping up with speed, resolution, etc. of competitors
    • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

      @pdth I would agree with points 1 and 3. I hate having to wait 6 months to find out if it's coming to T-Mobile, and I hate that it has only 512MB RAM when many Android phones have a MINIMUM of 512MB RAM (I won't mention iPhone only becuase everyone knows they all come with >1GB RAM on their devices and won't ever be anywhere but with AT&T)
      • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

        @russdwright@... Sorry but your information about what you think "everyone knows" is wrong. iPhone 4 has 512Kb of Ram (twice as much as iphone 3GS and iPad)
  • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

    Due to the fact it's a Blackberry. It does nothing but BBM efficiently. The time will come when you'll have to use a touch pad people!
    • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

      @EmilyPayneMaddie <br>If touchpads are so great why are the manufacturers of ebook readers so reluctant to employ them. Virtual keyboards and touchpads aren't comfortable to use. Would you seriously want to use a desktop or notebook computer without an actual keyboard? It makes make fingers cramp just thinking about it. I also prefer a clean, clear display free from smudges and my greasy finger prints (and I'm someone that compulsively washing my hands). Cheese curls are certainly are not compatible with touchpads.
  • It doesn't need to generate "buzz"

    Blackberry has a huge presence in the corporate world where companies have made big investments in BlackBerry integration. This isn't like the consumer market where you have to convince customers that this is a "really cool" device. It's more about convincing corporate CIO's and IT departments that it makes Blackberry more modern while maintaining the functionality and security they are used to. So, it doesn't really have to break new ground to be successful in the corporate market. It just needs to bring blackberry more level with iPhone and Android while maintaining it's previous strong points.
    • Ditto

      @cornpie All the corporate types are itching to ditch the Blackberries and get Iphones. This will be a success even if BB only maintains it's market share leadership.

      As for the low-res screen gripe...remember that higher the res, the more it eats into battery life.

      I wonder how many of the journalists listed above are using iphonies instead of BB. I'm sure it would kill them to admit that their iphonies aren't the greatest thing since sliced bread.
      • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

        @Ditto... While I am not a "corporate type" I do have corporate needs, which mean the ability to sync SEAMLESSLY to ALL of the functions that Outlook has to offer. If there were an analogy to how iPhone syncs to Outlook, I could only think that Apple is using duct tape to sync their phone!! Why a device would sync calendar events but not tasks (which is really just a calendar alarm from an email that was flagged) is beyond me. Apple will have to go much further than they have with Microsoft Office funcionality for the corporate ranks to even begin to ditch their Blackberrys (ies?). If I were Steve Jobs, I'd be trying to pilfer talent from RIMM to try to create an iPhone 3Gb/4b (iphone for business functions)... let the moms and teenagers have their iPhone 3G, 3Gs and 4 and create an entirely different line with accentuated business functionality.
  • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

    Maybe RIM forgot to consider that people willing to pay the price for a smart phone don't want a crummy slide out keyboard. Not everyone wants to be replacing thier phone in 6 months.....
    • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

      @keitha73... from what I can see, you have the option of the touchscreen or the real keyboard... I, for one, love options. Based on my experience with the iPhone touch screen, I spend more time correcting than creating.
  • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

    Cheetos and touchpads are not compatible.
    • RE: BlackBerry Torch: 'Best BlackBerry ever' fails to generate buzz

      Glazed donuts are even less compatible.