Hands On: BlackBerry 6 OS

At a Glance
  • The Torch smartphone successfully delivers a design that is both innovative and familiar to BlackBerry users, but its performance and features aren’t quite up to par.

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Universal Search

At long last, RIM has brought universal search to the BlackBerry OS. And it's pretty powerful, too, as it searches through your contacts, apps, music--just about everywhere on your phone. If you want to speed up the process, you can tweak the settings so that it searches only through specific parts of the phone. I found it quite fast, however, and I relied on it heavily to find what I needed in my hands-on tests. I also liked that it gives you the option to search Google, YouTube, the Yellow Pages, and BlackBerry App World if it doesn't find what you're looking for on the phone itself. A lot of platforms (Android, iOS, WebOS) offer universal search, but the BlackBerry's version is the most powerful and comprehensive of them all.

Browser

Hallelujah! WebKit finally comes to the BlackBerry OS. Until now, the BlackBerry platform's biggest pitfall was its shoddy Web browser. The new browser isn't perfect (more on that later), but it's light years ahead of the older one. BlackBerry OS has finally caught up with the other players: You get pinch-to-zoom multitouch support, tabbed browsing, and auto-wrap text zoom (when you zoom in to a block of text, the font automatically wraps in a column so that none of it is cut off).

Pinch-to-zoom wasn't the smoothest experience, but it worked just fine in my hands-on tests. Auto-wrap text functioned well, too. I liked having a cursor while browsing so that I could easily copy text and navigate as I would in a desktop browser.

The tabbed browsing interface is especially nice and easy to navigate. Opening a new tab requires clicking on an icon in the top-right corner of the display. Clicking this icon also shows all of your open browser windows in thumbnails. You can then flick through the miniature pages to navigate.

Full Flash Player 10 support unfortunately isn't ready yet for BlackBerry, though RIM is still working with Adobe to deliver the multimedia platform to future phones. Additionally, since the OS has no HTML5 support, you're pretty much stuck with YouTube for Web videos.

I can live without Flash support for now, but I can't deal with a sluggish browser. This is probably more of a hardware issue on the BlackBerry Torch 9800, but I found the browser slow to load, especially with media-heavy Websites. I actually managed to crash the browser a few times, too, which was frustrating.

At a Glance
  • The Torch smartphone successfully delivers a design that is both innovative and familiar to BlackBerry users, but its performance and features aren’t quite up to par. Read the full review

    Pros

    • Excellent keyboard/touchscreen design
    • BlackBerry 6 OS adds much-needed features

    Cons

    • Performance can be sluggish
    • Display has lower resolution than rival phones
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