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BlackBerry Torch lights up users’ lives

Most Bermudians wouldn’t know where they are without their BlackBerrys such has been the take-up of the iconic device on the Island.

Research In Motion’s BlackBerry Torch 9860 is the latest in a long line of products to hit the shelves here and the much-awaited arrival doesn’t disappoint.

The first proper touch-screen smartphone to be launched by the Canadian firm bucks the trend in Qwerty keyboards for which it has made itself a household name.

But with button-based interfaces slowly losing their appeal the manufacturer has decided to offer something with all the functions of a BlackBerry, including the infamous BlackBerry Messenger, as well as a 3.7-inch capacitive touch-screen and new operating system in the form of BlackBerry OS 7, at the risk of alienating its core fan base.

On first impressions the phone is compact and, given the standard BlackBerry design, minimalist in terms of keys, with one to make calls, another to revert to the main menu and one to turn back to the previous page (which comes in particularly useful when surfing the Internet and opening up different pages), as well as the power of course and a small optical trackpad to navigate around the screen (again a lifesaver when it comes to selecting the smaller sized icons).

The display itself is also quite east to find your way around, whether using it as a phone (voice dialling can also be achieved) or for text messages, for playing music, listening to podcasts, taking and storing photos and videos, downloading YouTube footage or making your way around the social media websites such as Facebook or Twitter and the array of applications and games that can be accessed.

You could be forgiven for thinking that you were using an Apple IOS phone at first glance and the system uses the same swipe technology, while the ability to customise each category is a big bonus.

Wireless connections can be managed via the icon at the top of the home page and just below are all of your texts, emails, Twitter updates and Facebook messages received.

One of the drawbacks however, which became a tad annoying after a while for a non-BlackBerry owner, was the remembering to tap the BlackBerry button to pull up app-specific options and having to use the trackpad for precision selection.

Employing the TFT technology rather than the Super AMOLED Plus tech of the Samsung Galaxy S2, the image is still sharp despite the 480x800 pixel resolution paling in comparison to the iPhone 4’s 640x960-pixel ‘retina display’.

In terms of design, the Torch 9860 is a BlackBerry but it isn’t at the same time comfortably fitting the palm of the hand or the back pocket, it’s concave physique makes it easy to grasp and yet not as cumbersome as some of RIM’s earlier models.

For social networkers and business types out there is an LED notification type at the top of the device which flashes every time you have a waiting message to keep up-to-date on proceedings.

Another criticism I would have is the slowness of other activities when an app is downloading in the background and due to a lack of a microSD card the generous 2.5-gigabyte memory limits the amount of music that can be listened to and HD movies watched on the handset.

Users can download more apps through BlackBerry App World, but beware that some of the older apps don’t yet work on the OS 7.

On the upside, the Torch’s browser speed is faster than many of its predecessors, however again be warned that Adobe Flash enabled programmes don’t work either.

The phone’s five-megapixel camera comes complete with autofocus and face detection, as well as a number of scene modes, and the image quality is good when shot in light.

Gently pressing down the convenience button sets the autofocus and a firmer press takes the shot.

The Torch 9860 is also well connected through the use of 3G, wi-fi and Bluetooth and is one of the few phones available that includes near-field communications (NFC) support.

Battery life is also a big plus, with medium use off a single charge meaning that the phone can last up to a day-and-a-half before needing to be plugged in again.

All-in-all I liked it but would need more play time to get to grips with some of its finer details in order to convince me to go out and buy one straight away.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Touch tastic: The BlackBerry Torch 9860 (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published November 23, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated November 23, 2011 at 8:43 am)

BlackBerry Torch lights up users’ lives

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