BLACKBERRY TORCH 9800
Optus, $79/m for 24m optus.com.au
SMARTPHONE users have long had to pick a side: touchscreen or keyboard. It was a particularly vexed choice for BlackBerry users, the phone community’s biggest email addicts and therefore its most committed keyboard fans.
That could be why BlackBerry maker RIM has attempted the improbable: adding a keyboard to a touchscreen phone.
The resulting Torch 9800 is a compact smartphone with a 3.2-inch touchscreen on top and a keyboard that slides out from beneath. Despite the double feature, this phone is small enough to slide into a jeans pocket.
The touch-sensitive screen shows off new BlackBerry 6 software that adds fresh features and makes it easier to navigate for first-time users.
Apps are now filed into ‘‘ drawers’’ that can be opened by sliding your finger up the screen. Several drawers are available and users can flick between them with a sideways touch. The new software also adds a search bar at the top of the screen for messages or programs.
But its best trait is the improvement it makes to web browsing on the BlackBerry. Websites now appear quickly and can be magnified with an on-screen pinching movement. Text automatically wraps to the screen size, so you can read without chasing words around the display.
But the BlackBerry Torch’s strength remains email and it delivers this as promptly as ever, and lets you compose messages just as quickly, thanks to its keys.
The keyboard is similar to that of the Bold 9700 and, while compact, provides for quick thumb-typing.
Outside email, this keyboard is useful when juggling your social life on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Windows Live Messenger and more. A new Social Feeds app lets you amalgamate all of them into one place, and notifications also appear in your inbox.
The Torch offers more entertainment from BlackBerry App World, as well as welldesigned music, video and photo programs, a GPS navigator and a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and an LED flash that will capture images and videos.
A couple of flaws bring this phone down to earth, though. The Torch’s screen resolution is quite low (480x360) compared to that of its rivals. Text and images can appear muddy and unfocused as a result.
Sliding the keyboard back and forth can be tricky with one hand, if you don’t want to make on-screen selections, and sometimes the 624MHz processor struggles to keep up.
Regardless, smartphone pilgrims who have long searched for a touchscreen-keyboard compromise are likely to see their vision realised in the Torch 9800. It’s not a perfect mix, but it’s the best yet.