AT&T and RIM Announce the Next Generation of BlackBerry– Say Hello to the BlackBerry Torch
Remember that BlackBerry Slider from a few months back? You know, the one that looked like a mix between a Palm Pre, BlackBerry Storm and BlackBerry Bold? Well, it’s real and is the new flagship phone from BlackBerry launching next week (August 12th) with the all new BlackBerry 6 OS on AT&T. So what’s in it and does it have the potential to match up with the EVO 4Gs, iPhone 4s and Droid Xs of the world? Read on for all the info.
Since there is a lot going on here, we’re gonna break this into two parts– the phone and the new BlackBerry 6 OS. First, the phone.
We knew a while back when those rumored shots began leaking that BlackBerry was looking to make a big splash to try to keep up with the rapidly growing iPhone/iOS and Android– and it looks like from here they’ve succeeded. Here the specs:
- BlackBerry 6 OS— Which offers a whole slew of new improvements over the ever so old BlackBerry 5 OS that’s been on BlackBerrys for the last few years. But we’ll get to more on this in a bit….
- Sleek design with 3.2 inch multi-touch screen and slide out QWERTY keyboard— As we said in the intro, a mixture of the Pre, Storm and Bold– and this is a very good thing. At around the size of Bold 9700 (read: the perfect size of not too big, not too small and very easy to fit in a jeans pocket) and packing that same awesome 9700 keyboard and trackpad (why this is needed with a touchscreen we’re not sure), the Torch definitely is a looker. And while the screen– which is not only smaller but much lower resolution than that of the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S, EVO 4G and Droid X– may be a slight downer by today’s super-smartphone standards set by the incredible 3.5 inch iPhone and amazing 4.3 inch Droid X and EVO 4G screens, at least you can relax knowing that at least it’s not a SurePress screen like the Storm’s and is a “normal” one as you’d expect on any other touchscreen phone (meaning now you can just tap the screen to do something, not have to click it in. All I can say to this is that it’s about time).
- AT&T 3G with WiFi N and GPS— Yes, this is another AT&T exclusive for now. Oh, and like those other new smartphones, the Torch also can connect to the latest and fastest WiFi N networks.
- 5 megapixel camera with flash, autofocus and video recording– Another downer here– for some reason video recording is not HD like on the also 5 megapixel iPhone 4, instead you can only record in VGA (or the quality of video that phones from a 3 years ago took in).
- 3.5 mm headphone jack and 4 GB of built-in memory with another 4 GB on microSD card– This should be great for those looking to take advantage of the much updated media functions in BlackBerry 6 OS (which we’ll also get to in a second). You can also swap the microSD card out for one with up to 32 GB of storage for a total of 36 GB.
But the hardware is just one part of this very promising phone. Now let’s move on to the other big part software.
BlackBerry 6 OS
As we’ve seen from Android, iOS, webOS and the soon to be released Windows Phone 7– a phone is nothing without some really great software, and RIM looks to have made some great improvements in this department as well. And we’re talking really big improvements, such as:
- New web browser— It’s no secret that the old BlackBerry browser just flat-out stunk. It was horrendous in every way– slow, pages didn’t load right (and when they did they looked horrible)– just really, really bad stuff. Now in BlackBerry 6, RIM has put in a whole new web browser running the same WebKit tech found on the iOS, Android, and webOS browsers. In short, what once stunk is now finally really good (RIM actually called this phone the Torch after a company they bought a little while back called Torch that specialized in making WebKit browsers). And yes, there is pinch-to-zoom here.
- Improved home screen and menus— Everything from notifications to app layouts have been redone here, and they look really great. Notifications are really easy to access with all you have to do is tap on that new BBM, email, or other new message and a menu will drop down (just like with the Android notification bar), and there you can see all the latest messages and more. Apps also now are categorized in a “pages” type way as seen on Android and iOS (just here apps are in categories), and you can either flick between some of those categories (like media, messaging, etc.) on the home screen or tap and pull up the full list of apps. All in all, some more very nice and promising improvements.
- Updated Media Player with wireless Media Sync– You’d think we’d already have seen this on the iPhone… but seriously this is truly an awesome feature. Whether you use iTunes or Windows Media Player, the Torch and BlackBerry 6 can allow you to sync your latest music and videos wirelessly from your computer to your phone over your home WiFi network. All this plus improved media controls (like a Cover Flow-esq way of going through albums) has the makings for a much nicer media experience.
- Social Feeds— Think of how Palm or the KIN took all your social networks– Twitter, Facebook, MySpace– and put made them a core part of the OS and you get an idea of what RIM added here. The new Social Feeds basically takes those three social networks and throws in support for AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk and Yahoo! Messenger, and of course BBM and allow you to not only view them all in one place, but to update them all at once. Between this and the new media features, it’s pretty clear that RIM is really going for more than the normal business user here.
On top of that you get a new Universal Search feature like that on iOS which allows you to easily search not just all the content on your phone but the web as well, and standard BlackBerry staples like BBM, great email and messaging, and the App World. For a full video recap of all the new BlackBerry 6 features, check out this video:
Now for those BlackBerry users wondering if your device will get some of these new upgrades, unless you got a Bold 9700, Bold 9650, or Pearl 9100 (the new Pearl with 3G that’s yet to come to the US) you look to right now be out of look with no guarantee of an upgrade being on your horizon.
The new Torch with BlackBerry 6 OS will be coming out next Thursday, August 12th, for $199.99 with a new 2 year contract and data plan on AT&T, and you can sign up for an email alert when it becomes available from AT&T’s site here.
So AT&T users– which phone would you rather get to head back to school with– iPhone 4, BlackBerry Torch or Samsung Captivate? Let us know in the comments.