BlackBerry Torch 9800: Visually Uninspiring

RIM’s new BlackBerry Torch 9800 sports the company’s new BlackBerry OS 6 and will go for US$200 with a brand new two-year contact on AT&T. You can get one on August 12th. The BlackBerry Torch brings full touch-screen and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard together, like the Palm Pre. No other BlackBerry combines these two features. I’m also a big fan of slider phones that slide out the keyboard vertically. The Pre I didn’t like because of the non-linear curved sliding motion, among other things. The BlackBerry Torch is RIM’s top-of-the-line smartphone and is the answer for those who prefer a physical keyboard but who also want a full-sized touch display.

I wish the display was a bit bigger. That full-sized touch display is on the small side. iPhone’s 3.5-inch display is a bit bigger even. At just 3.2 inches the BlackBerry Torch barely makes it. I think there is some space on the top and bottom: get rid of the unnecessary logo and the touchpad. The curves at the corners are also too curvy in my opinion. Add to the small display the anemic pixel format: 480×360. If the BlackBerry Torch had been available last year the display would have been quite alright. In 2010 these display specs are at the low-end of the curve. With most displays on Android smartphones sporting 800×480 or higher, not to mention Apple’s industry-leading 960×640, the anemic 480×360 just doesn’t seem fitting on RIM’s new high-end smartphone.

The Torch’s resolution? Just 187.5 PPI. Even with an almost-too-largish 4.3-inch LCD the Motorola Droid X with a 854×480 pixel format registers a very decent 227.83 PPI. The iPhone 4’s PPI is a stratospheric 326. Maybe the new BlackBerry OS 6 take advantage of every pixel on the BlackBerry Torch…

Wired’s Eliot Van Buskirk in Research In Motion Bites Back With BlackBerry Torch:

… it failed one early test: Swiping my finger to the side to bring up a new screen of apps, I noted way more lag time than I did on my first-generation iPhone.

This isn’t good news. With large touch screens on smartphones the touch experience becomes very important. Actually, I’m a bit surprised to see RIM falter in this regard but maybe the company had too many things to deal with: new hardware and new software. RIM still has time to tweak some settings but I’m not holding my breath for an ultra-smooth experience. I think iOS 4 and Android 2.2 are way ahead in this regard.

There’s a lot to like for BlackBerry fans: a biggish touch display, a QWERTY keyboard that slides out vertically, App World pre-loaded, a new OS 6. I’m not so sure AT&T was the best choice since most business folks would prefer a more reliable Verizon. But to those who are on the fence and who appreciate a large touch display the BlackBerry Torch is yesterday’s news. The 3.2-inch display coupled with a 480×360 pixel format with a laggy touch experience fizzles in light of the latest iPhone and Android smartphones.