Hot on HuffPost Tech:

See More Stories
AOL Tech

Hands On With the BlackBerry Torch

BlackBerry Torch
We got a few minutes with BlackBerry's newest phone at today's Torch/BlackBerry OS 6 launch event. Offering a middle ground between the touch-based Storm and full-keyboard smartphones, RIM's Torch opts for both a touch interface and full slider, QWERTY keyboard. Loaded with a new UI and much-needed WebKit Web browser, BlackBerry OS 6 is a big step forward for the company, so keep reading to get our first impressions.

BlackBerry Torch



BlackBerry Torch

BlackBerry Torch
Like most BlackBerry devices, the Torch has a solid, no-nonsense business build. The Torch hardware isn't going to wow anyone, but it's got the text-friendly physical QWERTY keyboard you've come to expect from RIM. BlackBerry users concerned about the typing experience should be thrilled; we were quickly tapping away on the Torch's keyboard with little adjustment or training.

The keyboard's sliding action is smooth, and the optical touchpad works perfectly fine. However, much like the scroll wheel on some Android phones, the touchpad does feel out of place on the Torch. Regardless of whether the physical keyboard was open or closed, we continually skipped over the pad in favor of interacting directly with the phone's 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen. The 360x480 screen pales in comparison to devices like the iPhone 4 or Droid X, but it was still perfectly readable. BlackBerry users will be pleased to see an improved 5-megapixel, flash-equipped camera; it's a big improvement over Berrys, but it's hardly putting RIM at the cutting edge of smartphone photography.

Our only concern is speed; the Torch felt a bit sluggish while navigating menus, and while swiping left and right between screens.

BlackBerry OS 6

BlackBerry OS 6
Though RIM led the event with its new hardware, the day's big announcement was the official unveiling of BlackBerry OS 6, RIM's next gen operating system. Though it's clearly recognizable as an RIM offering, BlackBerry OS 6 is undeniably a brand new world. There's a lot here, and users will find redesigned media experiences, a new homescreen design, a notification system, Wi-Fi music syncing and device-wide search. At the top of the list for many, though, is the WebKit-based browser with HTML5 support, which drastically improves the struggling Web experience of RIM devices.

The classic BlackBerry homescreen grid has been modified in favor of a swipe-friendly interface. Swiping right brings up your favorite apps, while going left shows your most frequently used apps. Like WebOS and Android, BlackBerry OS 6 brings a new 'Notification Previews' feature, which lets you quickly see messages, tweets, BlackBerry messenger notes and more. Taking a cue from other modern smartphones, BlackBerry OS 6 integrates Twitter, Google Chat, AIM, Facebook, MySpace, RSS and more into a new Unified Social Feeds app, collecting the activity from multiple social networks into a single feed.

Typing while on the homescreen will open OS 6's Universal Search, which will immediately begin displaying notes, contacts, e-mails, media and more that match your letters. It even searches BlackBerry's App World, saving you the need to jump into a dedicated market app just to find and start a download. Anyone that has tried to search their e-mail archives on older BlackBerry devices should find Universal Search to constitute a marked improvement.

As we mentioned, RIM is bringing a lot to the table with BlackBerry OS 6, and we're looking forward to spending more time with the Torch and the new system.

Tags: blackberry, BlackberryOs6, BlackberryOs6.0, BlackberryTorch, cellphones, features, rim, top