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.

Page 3 of 3

Messaging, E-Mail, and Social Feeds

E-mail is where RIM really shines, and BlackBerry 6 OS adds some features that solidify the company as the master of messaging. You can of course sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise Server with support for Exchange, Lotus Domino, or Groupwise for real-time e-mail delivery. With BlackBerry Internet Service, you can access up to ten personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts.

Here's where things get confusing: Essentially you have to deal with two separate inboxes for managing your messages. You have the universal Messages inbox, which contains your SMS items, e-mail messages, and BlackBerry Messenger, and then you have your dedicated e-mail (in my case, Gmail) inbox. In the dedicated Gmail inbox, you get archiving, threaded conversations, labeling, and starring--an arrangement that's just about as close to the Gmail desktop setup as possible. In the catch-all inbox, however, you don't have access to any of these features. This is a bizarre oversight on RIM's part.

Social media aggregators are a hot item in competing smartphones, so it comes as no surprise that RIM has created its own. I'm not a huge fan of social aggregators; I find them a bit messy, and I prefer to read my feeds in separate places. I don't have a use for them, and I wish smartphone manufacturers would stop insisting that dumping all of your social networks into one place increases your productivity. RIM's Social Feeds app certainly does not.

Like the others, Social Feeds combines your Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging apps (Gtalk, AIM, BlackBerry Messenger), and RSS feeds into a seamless view. Though it is easy to add accounts (as simple as logging in) and the interface is fairly easy to decipher, Social Feeds is missing a lot of functionality. You can post status updates and view others, and that's basically it. If you want to do anything more, such as comment on somebody's Facebook status or tweet, you have to move to a stand-alone Facebook or Twitter client.

Multimedia

Can a BlackBerry phone be an entertainment device? RIM is certainly trying to change the perception of the BlackBerry as strictly business. Thankfully, the upgrades in 6 OS definitely help. The music player gets a much needed face-lift, gaining a CoverFlow-like interface that nicely showcases your music collection's album art. You simply run your finger over the album art to navigate through your collection.

You'll also find a brand-new YouTube application with a fairly straightforward interface, as well as a BlackBerry Podcast app for managing your video and audio podcasts.

Conclusion

BlackBerry 6 OS has more positives than negatives, but it still lacks the freshness it needs to keep up with the competition. BlackBerry users will be more than happy with the updates, but I fear that RIM won't be able to win over new customers. Furthermore, the user experience just isn't quite up to par with what you can find in various Android versions and overlays, such as HTC Sense or Samsung's TouchWiz. RIM is playing catch-up rather than innovating, which is disappointing considering the contributions the company has made to the smartphone world. Stay tuned for a full review of the BlackBerry Torch 9800 phone tomorrow.

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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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