The first BlackBerry smartphone with both a traditional, full-QWERTY BlackBerry keyboard and a touch-screen for navigation, the Torch 9800, is expected to be released in the United States by wireless carrier AT&T on Thursday, August 12 for $199.99 along with a new, two-year service agreement.
In addition to its QWERTY/touch-screen combination, the new BlackBerry slider is notable for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it's the first smartphone to run RIM's new mobile OS, BlackBerry 6. What follows is a quick list of 10 things BlackBerry enthusiasts and gadget geeks should know about Research In Motion's (RIM) latest, and possibly greatest, offering.
For more BlackBerry Torch 9800 launch coverage, check out "BlackBerry Torch 9800 Slider (AT&T) Unboxing Video" and "RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800: A Visual Tour."
New BlackBerry Battery: F-S1
The battery that powers the BlackBerry Torch 9800 is a completely new model, not found in any other current BlackBerry device, the 1300mAh "F-S1" battery. It's slightly smaller than the 1550mAh battery that ships with RIM's popular Bold 9700 smartphone, and as such, its battery life is a bit shorter. (The Bold 9700 gets about 6 hours of 3G talk-time compared to the Torch's 5.8 hours, according to RIM.)
No Speedy HSPA 7.2 for BlackBerry Torch
While the brand new BlackBerry Torch 9800 is a 3G device, it does not support HSPA data transfer speeds up to 7.2Mbps, like many other modern high-end smartphones, according to reports. Rather, the Torch supports HSPA speeds up to 3.6Mbps. In fact, no current BlackBerry smartphones support HSPA 7.2.
Relatively Rapid Boot-up Process for BlackBerry 6 OS
Ask any BlackBerry user what they think of RIM's boot-up or restart time in BlackBerry OS 5.0, and you'll very likely get some version of the same answer: It takes WAY too long.
Thankfully, RIM seems to have made progress in this area with BlackBerry 6; the Torch with OS v184.108.40.206 rebooted in less than a fifth of the time it took my Bold 9700 on OS 220.127.116.114 to restart. (Note: My Bold has many more applications installed than my Torch, and that no doubt affects start-up time. But I can still say with certainty that the BlackBerry 6 reboot process is much faster than BlackBerry 5.)
Still No Active Apps on Media Card, But...
BlackBerry users have longed for additional space to store applications on their devices for years, since that storage is restricted to a relatively small portion of the BlackBerry memory, called "application memory." BlackBerry App World, RIM's mobile software shop, lets users "archive" applications for storage on media cards, but those apps must be "restored" and reinstalled on their handsets to work. In other words, BlackBerry users are able to launch only the applications that are stored within their app memory.
The bad news: This fact still holds true, and BlackBerry Torch 9800 users only have 512MB of application memory to store their apps, among other system software. You can still archive apps on your media card, but again, you can't use the software until it's reinstalled.
However, RIM tells me that certain applications running within BlackBerry 6 can "access" some user-information and settings stored on a media card, though I'm not exactly sure how this will work or whether or not the functionality will be truly valuable.
BlackBerry Keyboard Shortcuts: The Best of Both Worlds
RIM's BlackBerry OS is packed with piles of valuable keyboard shortcuts. And because the Torch 9800 has both a traditional BlackBerry keypad and an on-screen "virtual" keyboard, Torch users get the best of both worlds when it comes to shortcuts.
As far as I can tell, all past QWERTY and touch-screen keyboard shortcuts available in earlier versions of RIM's OS are present in BlackBerry 6, as well. Check out my BlackBerry Bible page for expert keypad shortcuts and touch-screen keyboard tricks.
One USB Cable for Synchronization, Charging
RIM has for the past couple of years packed two cords along with most BlackBerry smartphones: one dedicated charger-cord; and a mini/micro USB cable. The BlackBerry Torch ships with just one micro USB cable, meant for both charging and synchronizing data, as well as a small, black USB charging adapter.
That means one less cable to carry around, and to me, that's a good thing. I also very much appreciate how the Torch micro USB cable is at least a foot longer than the annoyingly short micro USB cords that came along with recent BlackBerry devices.
Most Internal Storage of Any BlackBerry, Ever
The BlackBerry Torch 9800 has the most built-in storage of any BlackBerry ever made with 4GB of internal eMMC memory, on top of support for external microSD cards up to 32GB. That means the Torch can store roughly 36GB of data at a given time. It ships with a 4GB microSD card. And you can always carry multiple media cards to boost the total amount of storage.
Origin of the "Torch" Name
The BlackBerry 9800 slider was originally rumored to be another BlackBerry "Bold"--shots of the device with Bold branding even popped up online. However, RIM at some point decided to change the name to "Torch" in honor of Torch Mobile, the company that built the foundation for the new BlackBerry Webkit browser. Torch was acquired by RIM in August, 2009.
"Bold-Style" QWERTY Keyboard--With a Twist
On first glance, the Torch's QWERTY keyboard looks just like the one found on RIM's Bold 9700 smartphone, but it's a just a bit smaller and the keys are slightly more sunken. The upraised bezel-edges around the keyboard make it feel more cramped than its Bold 9700 and 9650 counterparts. And it sports only three thin, silver-colored "frets" between/above its keys, compared to the four frets found on 9700 and 9650, which also makes the keyboard feel different.
No Torch Holster or Case
Most BlackBerry smartphones ship with some sort of protective/carrying-case. The Torch 9800 is an exception, as it comes with no case at all. The touch-screen BlackBerry Storm and Storm2 devices didn't come with holsters either, so perhaps RIM has decided not to ship cases with touch-screen devices. It still would've been nice to see the Torch ship with some kind of case, especially since there aren't even any available for purchase via RIM's online store.
On the other hand, the BlackBerry Torch 9800 does come with a handy, BlackBerry-branded "shammy" to help ensure your screen remains spotless.
This story, "BlackBerry Torch 9800: 10 Things You Didn't Know About It" was originally published by CIO.