BlackBerry Torch – Smart Phone Review: The device tries hard to be the phone for both the office and the home. Although it does some things well, it’s neither the strongest office tool nor the ideal touch-screen device.
The rule used to be that if you wanted a smart phone, you had to choose: work or play.
BlackBerry was the workhorse. The models are sturdy, great for e-mail and digitally secure. Businesses love them.
On the other end, Apple Inc.’s iPhone and the dozens of smart phones that use Google Inc.’s Android software were mostly good for posting Facebook pictures, playing games and downloading quirky apps. They weren’t very efficient for office work.
But Apple and Google have remedied most of the problems that made them outcasts from corporate IT departments. Several Android phones have physical keyboards, in addition to touch screens, so banging out long e-mail memos is not so onerous.
With challengers aiming for its crown, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd., too, needed to burn the rulebook. The culmination of that is the BlackBerry Torch, which went on sale Thursday for $200 with a two-year contract. AT&T is the exclusive service provider for the phone.
The Torch is the first BlackBerry to include both a touch screen and the hallmark physical keyboard that has turned many BlackBerry users into self-described “CrackBerry addicts.”
RIM has struggled with touch-screen devices. A pair of Verizon Wireless phones under the BlackBerry Storm moniker were initially billed as “iPhone killers” but disappointed users in just about every way. They were slow, clunky and hard to type with.
Lessons have been learned, and the BlackBerry Torch tries hard to be the phone for both the office and the home. The idea here is that you won’t have to carry around two phones. In that sense, it works well.
But it’s neither the strongest office tool nor the ideal touch-screen device.
At 3.2 inches, the display is about 9% smaller than the iPhone’s and 14% smaller than HTC Corp.’s Droid Incredible. It is, however, larger than most BlackBerry phone screens.
To accommodate the display while still keeping a relatively small profile, the keyboard has been tucked away, requiring users to slide it out before typing an e-mail or Web address.
The compromise becomes evident the moment you get your thumbs on the cramped keypad. Gone are the small spaces to distinguish between each key. It’s similar to the BlackBerry Bold but slightly tighter, and the keys aren’t as tall.
Still, the Torch’s keyboard is better than on most smart phones not made by RIM — outperforming, say, Motorola Inc.’s Droid.
Information from Los Angeles Times.