For better or worse, Research in Motion is playing serious catch-up with its Blackberry Torch 9800 smartphone, the first to ship with Blackberry 6 OS. It's a desperate attempt to win back potential defectors to iPhone and Android, with a new eye towards consumers, but it just might work. Here's a look at the new Blackberry Torch and the key features of Blackberry 6.
The Blackberry Torch has a 3.2-inch, 480-by-360 resolution touch screen. Other specs include more than 1GB of combined RAM/ROM storage, 4GB memory, a 4GB microSD card and 802.11n Wi-Fi.
The physical keyboard slides vertically, but unlike the Palm Pre, the bulk of the phone rests in the underside, with the screen sliding up. Is physical keyboard dead? Not if RIM has anything to say about it.
Measuring 4.37-by-2.44-by-0.57 inches when closed, the Blackberry Torch gains an extra 1.46 inches with the keyboard revealed, and weighs 5.68 ounces. A 1300 mAHr rechargeable battery provides up to 5 hours and 30 minutes of GSM talk time, 30 hours of music and 6 hours of video. In standby, the Blackberry Torch can last up to 18 days.
On the phone's right side, you'll find the usual buttons for volume and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the left, there's a micro USB jack. Sorry, no HDMI.
Nothing revolutionary to report here, just a 5-megapixel camera with flash, image stabilization, continuous autofocus, 11 scene modes and 2x digital zoom. Video recording is 640-by-480 VGA.
The new Blackberry uses a Webkit browser, the same technology behind the browsers for Android and the iPhone. It also adds windowed browsing. The ability to switch webpages without losing focus on the current page is a nice touch.
Another feature that iPhone, Android and WebOS users already enjoy, universal search lets Blackberry users find apps and contacts with a search field. It can also extend the search to the Internet.
Blackberry 6's revamped media players are perhaps the greatest example of how RIM is now trying to reach consumers as well as business users. New features include a photo viewer with pinch-to-zoom, a music player with album cover art and a built-in YouTube app.
With a new eye on consumers, a major challenge for Research in Motion will be to build up App World as a rival to the iPhone App Store and Android Market. But to get users started, RIM is pre-loading the Blackberry Torch with The Weather Channel, ESPN, CNN, Slacker Radio Plus, Fandango, Bloomberg, YPMobile and Web Video Search.
AT&T will carry the Blackberry Torch 9800 exclusively, starting August 12, for $199. The carrier's limited data plans are in effect, which means buyers can choose 200 MB for $15 per month, or 2GB for $25. No word on support from other U.S. carriers, such as Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile.
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