The BlackBerry Torch 9800 might not be the leap forward we were hoping for when it comes to industrial design, but with BlackBerry 6, it boasts the most front end changes to the BlackBerry software we’ve seen so far. For better or worse? Find out in this part of our BlackBerry Torch review.
You’ve read plenty about BlackBerry 6 already in the main section of our BlackBerry Torch review: in short, it is more of the same. But for die hard QWERTY keyboard addicts, it’ll be enough to keep their attention, even if that ends up being the case on other BlackBerrys getting the update. Let’s get stuck in to the pros and cons.
We have to hand it to RIM, this really is masterfully executed on BlackBerry 6. It’s not especially pretty, but it’s very speedy, and very useful. Where before you could start typing a name to pull up a contact and call, now other options appear as you type, Google Instant style. Contacts, emails, text messages, applications, and even the option to search YouTube, App World, Google Local Search or plain old Google. The only thing it doesn’t do is search email text rather than recipients/subject titles. Regardless, it’s still faster to pull up any contact you like and call them on the BlackBerry Torch 9800 than it is on the iPhone 4, or even on Android with voice actions.
New app layout
RIM’s spruced up the age old icon grid layout of its main menu screen on Blackberry 6. They’re still they’re of course, but you can now swipe left and right through different sorting methods too: you can cycle through frequent apps, downloads, media and favourites also. The frequent menu is great as it intelligently sorts your apps by the ones you most use, and you can leave your BlackBerry Torch 9800 on this screen by default.
One of BlackBerry OS’ most useful features already is a tightly integrated inbox into which anything from IMs to bids on eBay and app updates can drop into. They still can, but to complement them, the Social Feeds app in BlackBerry 6 saves you opening lots of different apps for your social stream updates.
You can have Facebook, Twitter and the most popular IM clients (Except Facebook chat) streams and conversations flow through here, and filter by network at the top, or even send an update to more than one simultaneously. There’s even an RSS pane if you swipe to the right that does just the same so you can have everything from your favourite sites ready to look at, no third party apps required.
What surprised us most is that syncing our Twitter feed in the background doesn’t grind the BlackBerry Torch 9800 to a halt, as it does so many other phones with this functionality built in (Android Sony Ericsson phones, Motorola Motoblur phones and the Samsung Wave, for instance) – we follow a lot of people, OK?
We can’t say we’re head over heels in love with the browser in BlackBerry 6. It’s more we’re relieved than smitten. But the point is, it’s sporting a near modern browser at last that loads pages promptly, and the drop down history bar shows page titles as well as URLs. And cycling through different tabs is very slick. All that’s missing is a Chrome To Phone-esque push feature to shove what’s on your desktop browser to your phone when you leave the house.
Pinch to zoom does work of a fashion in the browser on Blackberry 6, but we’ve found that just navigating with your finger alone can be quite tricky – through either slowdown, a glitch, or the responsiveness of the screen, we’re not quite sure. At any rate, text links on websites would frequently not open on a tap, even when zoomed in very close. You often have to trigger the cursor by brushing the the optical trackpad and selecting it the old school way. It sounds like a minor problem, but we noticed it enough times for to to be annoying.
Wasted screen space
BlackBerry 6 doesn’t quite make full use of the BlackBerry Torch 9800′s 3.2-inch screen, which is a pity. Most of the time, your apps menu sits in a tray at the bottom of the screen, while at the top, you can trigger drop down menus for profiles, network connections and messages/upcoming events in your calendar – unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to pin this to the homescreen as you can on current BlackBerrys. That leaves a good inch and a half of, well, nothing really. Why not give us the option for some more widgets in there? Even a window into the social feeds app We’re still waiting for Apple to do the same with iOS, mind – Android leads the trail here.
Do people actually use this? We’re not sure anyone at RIM does, otherwise they would have noticed how slow and ugly it is. If for some reason you do, we suggest you install Google Maps immediately for a functional, bearable means of GPS and guidance when you’re lost.
We actually can’t wait to see BlackBerry 6 on other ‘Berries. We’re pretty certain it’s going to make the Bold 9700 and Curve 3G seriously efficient communicators – more so even than before. It’s just a shame the build of the BlackBerry Torch makes it so much less appealing.
The BlackBerry Torch 9800 has made our best BlackBerry phone Top 5 list, which is why we’ve given it our Recommended rosette. Check out more Top 5s here and find out more about how they work with our Top 5 guarantee.
Read the rest of our BlackBerry Torch 9800 coverage
BlackBerry Torch 9800 official
BlackBerry Torch 9800: all the official photos
BlackBerry Torch 9800: hands on first impressions
BlackBerry Torch 9800 exclusive UK preview
BlackBerry 6 video: Six secrets revealed
BlackBerry Torch 9800 unboxed: photos