Our Review: Does the BlackBerry Torch Kick the iPhone 4's Ass?

Categories: Silicon Beach
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As much as I love new technology, I'm never one to purchase anything the moment it comes out. I figure it's probably best to let the fanatics have their turn, let all the obligatory first-in-a-series kinks get worked out, and the dust settle. That was not the case this time around, as I decided to purchase the new BlackBerry this weekend.

I'd heard mixed reviews about the BlackBerry Torch 9800, the first RIM slider phone, dubbed the iPhone with a BlackBerry touch. I'm a die-hard Apple fan, owning an iPod, and two different MacBooks, but that's as far as my loyalty has gone thus far. I'd always wanted to get the iPhone, but the BlackBerry and all of the business-related perks it housed in its confines were just too much to give up. Plus, I love buttons, and I just can't handle any kind of bad cell phone reception. Cue my first foray into uncharted territory with a just-released phone. But will it really kick the iPhone 4's hype and transfer iPhone users to the dark side of "CrackBerry" and BBMing?

I'd actually been convinced to make the switch at an AT&T store, when I was in for the routine "my BlackBerry is always freezing" dance, in hopes of being able to switch my Curve in for a newer version -- or at least a new version of my own. I was happy with the model that was "at least a year and a half old," as the store employee told me, but once I played with the Torch, I immediately changed my mind.

Right off the bat, this phone is sleek. It's about a few centimeters thicker than the standard Curve or Bold, and the sliding feature is less gimmicky and more of a necessity -- for me, at least. At first I was worried the non-trackball button would be a problem adjusting to, but the sales person guaranteed me that the trackball will eventually get stuck, and this one definitely won't. And it comes with a 1-year warranty. Wait, what?

The phone is strikingly similar to the iPhone, with capabilities to scroll the screen by simply touching it, zooming in and out the same way you would with a touch screen. You also can set "favorites" and "most used" settings.

The phone actually comes with certain Apps installed, standard, like Social Feeds (to organize all social networks into one, massive feed), Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Instant Messaging, Games, CNN, The Weather Channel, ESPN, Fandango, Where, AT&T Maps + Nav, and BlackBerry Messenger. Once you navigate in each separate folder, such as "applications," "media," and "messages," more apps are revealed, including YouTube, Podcasts, Slacker Radio, mobile banking, and easy-to-use apps like Microsoft Word to go, Spreadsheets to go, and Powerpoint-like Slideshows to go. This phone pretty much has everything.

I was a bit worried about the main reason I never purchased the iPhone: The easy-to-crack glass screen. I was assured that this screen isn't glass, and it's very hard to "crack." In fact, you can add a screen protector (my best guess is it works the same as when you put tape on windows before a hurricane).

The only real downfall I see with the BlackBerry Torch so far (which runs on the brand spankin' new BlackBerry 6 system, by the way) is the difficulty in dialing out to make phone calls. Granted, it's not rocket science, but rather than just slide the keypad out and dial, a series of steps needs to be performed. Mainly, pressing the BlackBerry button, then the phone key, then either dialing on the keypad or sliding out the keyboard to dial. It's a bit tedious if you're trying to dial in a hurry.

The screen isn't as high-resolution as other smart phone screens like the Motorola Droid X or the Samsung Vibrant, but it didn't really bother us that much. You can still read text and view media without any real problem. The phone is a lot more user-friendly than the standard BlackBerry, and you don't need to go through a series of typing "the brown fox" in order to actually get started with using the phone. Phew.

The "universal search" feature was another standout, letting you "search" for anything on your phone, the web, YouTube, and third-party apps, all with a simple click.

Both the iPhone 4 and the BlackBerry Torch 9800 have the same price tag through AT&T ($199), but apparently the iPhone is worth just a tad bit more, as it costs more ($187.51) to build than its BlackBerry counterpart ($171.05). Do you think this will have any real impact on BlackBerry sales? Will the Torch trump the iPhone 4?

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