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Blackberry 6 and Blackberry Torch 9800 review roundup

While BlackBerrys are still the device of choice for plenty of business users and email fans, it’s long been the opinion of those that make a living out of commentating on such matters that the BlackBerry OS could do with being brought up to speed. So there’s been plenty of interest in the latest OS, called simply Blackberry 6.

Released with the new OS is a new device, the BlackBerry Torch 9800, but has the new incarnation of RIM’s OS brought the BlackBerry in line with the likes of the iPhone and Android, which have been rocketing up the popularity charts?

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First, we went to the RIM’s official blog to find out what they thought Blackberry 6 would offers users:
RIM says the BlackBerry 6 OS will offer “an intuitive multimedia experience right out of the box” with new additions in almost every media category.

Mike, the senior product manager for browser development was keen to show off some of the new features:

“In BlackBerry 6, we have streamlined the BlackBerry Browser start page and implemented a single URL and search entry box to make sure users can get to websites quickly. Users can simply start typing any search term to quickly initiate a search, pin-point a specific URL within the Bookmarks and History sections, or just enter in a new URL for the first time.”

It will also offer users:
Tabbed browsing
Social Feeds
Automatic font size adjustment
Pinch to zoom controls

Among all the new features, Pocket Lint, decided that;

“the biggest day to day improvement coming your way is the Webkit browser, that means you can actually start surfing the web on the go without continually waiting for the BlackBerry browser to load the “damn” page.”

Across the pond, The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg tried out Blackberry 6, on the new Torch 9800, the first Blackberry with a slide-out keyboard and the first to allow typing on either a physical keyboard or an onscreen virtual keyboard.

“It might help stem the urge to switch to iPhone and Android, and even steal some users from those and other platforms, especially as the company brings out additional models that use the new software. And it shows that, contrary to some recent speculation, RIM is hardly dead or dying. In fact, the new phone and software are just the start of its plan to revitalize the BlackBerry franchise.”

However, positive though this sounds, he pointed out that Blackberry still has some catching up to– “just 9,000 [apps] on offer compared with While the iPhone boasts 225,000 of these downloadable programs, and Android claims 70,000”.

Music fans also get a better interface with Blackberry 6, according to CNET:

“The BlackBerry media player has been revamped to be more intuitive and not as stodgy, with more album art in the user interface to pep things up. It would have tickled our ivories if RIM had integrated the 7digital music store, but you can still grab the app from the online music store and play your downloaded songs in the player.”

It seems that pretty much every new feature dished up comes with a side order of “but”. Indeed, Electric Pig asked: Where’s the wow factor?

“ I was struck by how similar it felt to BlackBerry OS on the nearly a year old Storm 2. The iconography, the general navigation, and sadly the resolution – you’ll be right at home with BlackBerry 6 if you’ve ever used one of the Canadian company’s phones before. But I was hoping to be left a bit more shocked, confused by it even, given RIM’s decision to change the nomenclature of its operating system.”

The folks at IT Pro got their hands on the Torch at RIM’s London press conference, and while we don’t get the impression Clare Hopping was blown away, she did comment:

“There’s no denying that the BlackBerry Torch 9800 could add some competition to the touchscreen smartphone race. The new OS and UI is stunning, the screen is responsive and BlackBerrys have always excelled for business users.”

Over at Gizmodo, however, they don’t pull their punches about the Blackberry Torch 9800:

“If you don’t already own a BlackBerry, you will not want this phone. And if you do, you still might not want it, even if it may very well be the ‘best BlackBerry ever’.”

So what has put them off the new offering? Well, there’s the low-res 480×360 display for a start, then there’s the processor: “the Torch’s brains are straight out of 2008. It quickly becomes apparent that the 624MHz processor is too slow.” They don’t even like the OS much, well, at all:

“If the Torch’s dual nature hinted at BlackBerry’s psychological discord, BlackBerry OS 6 crystalizes it in a melange of glossy plastic, blue gradients, smoky shading, dull grays and white screencapes. It’s largely a mess.”

All in all it’s a pretty lukewarm reception for Blackberry 6, which can’t even be saved by its new phone, which just doesn’t appear to compete with the other devices on the market.

Unfortunately, Blackberry 6 will not be available to Storm and Storm 2 users – mutterings have already appeared from disgruntled Stormers who are vowing to swap allegiances to Android.

Looks like RIM might have to go back to the drawing board – and quickly, before it loses its fans to Android.