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The Torch and BB6: Too little too late

At yesterday’s Torch unveiling we were introduced to some new RIM hardware, with some more important RIM software–BBOS6. Having been at the unveiling and having had the chance to play  with the Torch for a few minutes, I am definitely very excited for this phone. The Torch is the best BB hardware to date and OS6 brings to BB a lot of pizzaz and functionality.

However, after having a few minutes to reflect, I feel as if RIM merely ripped-off competitor functionality and style and really added very little to distinguish themselves. In fact, the only real distinguishing factor the torch has is the vestigial keyboard from last millenium. With that said, follow the link to read my  point by point rundown.
OS6 features: A lot of ripoff with little innovation.

  • Hide and seek app menu: A RIM interface differentiator. Instead of a constant filled app screen ala IOS4 or a widget icon mix ala Android, BB6 has a semi transparant app bar at the bottom that you can pull up to different heights or completely to reveal apps.
  • Preview bar: A clone of the android status bar. By tapping the top bar, you can reveal message notifications. However, this bar must be tapped to access, it can’t be pulled down like in Android.
  • Multiple semi-customizable homescreens: You can arrange icons on the first page, frequent programs on the left screen and favorites on the right. It seems more like IOS4 and doesn’t allow widgets like Android.
  • Universal search: Already available on Android and IOS4.
  • Wrap reading feature: Double tap text to resize to the screen. The big two are already there, but atleast BB adds something new by actually grabbing, reformatting and resizing the text to maximize screen real estate.
  • App world: Buy with credit card, paypal or wireless bill. Actually a cool feature.
  • *BB6 side note: RIM traditionally foregos pizzaz in favor of stability.  Thus, I wasn’t surprised when many cool new features weren’t that fluid, shiny, or graphically smooth.  But I was surprised at how laggy the whole system was on the Torch. Assuming it wasn’t a problem with the yet unreleased OS, it is completely unacceptable for the newest BB to not be able to handle new pre-stripped OS features.

The torch itself: A dinosaur and an austronaut walk into a bar…

  • Trackpad: Why does one need a trackpad if there is a full touchscreen? A dinosaur artifact to please and welcome slow moving adopters.
  • Tiny Screen: Many BB users aren’t interested in big screens for movies or media, big screens are needed to fit more information on the screen.  RIM totally missed the point here by giving us more functionality with little space to comfortably view it.  For example, in my quick tests with the phone this point was driven home when in tabbed browsing you are given previews of open browser windows that are microscopically tiny.

What are your thoughts?


  • People have been making some good point about the relevancy of the touchpad even with the touchscreen.  Interesting points.
  • I should mention that this is an opinion piece and doesn’t reflect a BerryReview hatred for RIM.  This is a merely a response to what I felt was RIM conforming instead of innovating.  As someone who is interested in Blackberries, I am sometimes disappointment by RIM. This is one of those times.
  • What I wanted to point out is that while there are one or two innovations here, RIM awkwardly pulled itself up to the status quo.  They did not incorporate many industry standards in what I think are appealing ways.  But more importantly, they failed to capture the interest of a full market.  New studies show that BB users have the lowest brand loyalty.  Everyone else is innovating and most consumers want in on that.  Its hard to convince someone to get excited about old tech and what is already standard. Maybe my expectations were too high…
38 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. I always find it interesting that nobody ever mentions that android completely ripped off it’s UI from already existing stuff…

    Most of that crap is literally a direct port from WM…

    • Yes… but the less WM is mentioned, the better we all feel.

    • WOW is this still a BB site? lol. All I’ve been here is complaining what other phones do that the BB doesn’t have or do but then if it has and does it, it’s just “ripping it off” of another phone. If they did everything the same then whats the point? lol. No phone has everything period! and like i said before “I use just about every phone for a bit and I still prefer BB’s. I think OS6 is a nice update. The BB web browser has been way behind. I wonder how many of you have used other phones lol. Phone have features other don’t just like cars, there made for different people. I feel that BB has there on focus while Iphone and Android compete for multimedia. I tell people if you want multimedia get an android or iphone if you want productive get a BB. I haven’t used the 9800 but I watched video and it looked a lil laggy but it also looked like the people had little time so they opened and tried a lot of apps and so did the following person so I can only imagine how many apps they had open which would cause about any phone to lag. Also the memory issue, I have a 9700 with about 100MB free and I have apps for about every thing I need lol, BB don’t require much memory in general. I also think Android and Iphone are great phones but there competing in a different market, its all what your looking for. RIM shoulda added some stuff but no matter how much it wouldn’t be enough for everyone. Pick the phone to what you like and need.” The iphone 4 has a 5MP just like the 9800 and no HDMI out like a lot of androids are doing does that mean it sucks? You gotta love the push email other phones have….. o wait only BB does that good…… well you gotta love how well other phones multitasking….. o wait they still don’t do it as good as a BB with less memory and a slower processor :P. You really need to stop all the complaining or switch to another site, this use to be my favorite BB site but all this complaining is weak. Let me know when you find a phone that does everything 😛 lol

    • depends on what you are looking at. if its an htc device, then yes, youre most likely gonna get a winmo look because htc does sense for both winmo and android.

      and everyone ripped off the first computer that had icons, so we’re all screwed.

  2. Trackpad: I am glad they included a trackpad. The problem with a touch screen is that your own fingers can get in the way. Some applications you really want to control without losing any screen viewing. Take for example games. It is much more natural feeling for me to have a trackpad to control than have to constantly be placing my fingers on top of what I want to see.

    • Another good point – when I had my Droid X (R.I.P.) I found myself thumbing around for the trackball even though the screen is huge. The trackpad is a great option for those who just dont want to use the touchscreen.

    • And how exactly you plan to move the cursor when fully opened?
      You have really long fingers man… 😛

      It’s there not to use it when closed but mostly when opened. You keep the same usage paradigm for both touch and keyboard users.

  3. I like the trackpad. I own an bold 9700 and an ipod touch. I love the ipod touch for reading. Iat’s a pin in the neck to hold it with one and scroll with the other. Now you can hold it with one hand and scroll down the screen (i presume), without obscur4ing the screen with your fingers.

  4. I have to highly disagree with you on the track pad. Fully touch screen devices have issues with fine tuning the copy/paste. Thank you RIM for including it. Plus I LOVE the portrait keyboard. My favorite part of the phone. I hate landscape key boards

    • I actually prefer the portrait slider over the landscape slider. I understand the keyboard is there if you need it but who wants to turn the phone on the side to use it?

      Good job with the portrait slider.

    • The writer complains about the trackpad but Android had a trackball on the Hero when the 9700 had a trackpad lol

  5. I like your perspective David.

    With respect to what you wrote, yeah, I think RIM really missed the boat on the 9800 by not putting in a higher resolution screen. Not necessarily bigger, but more pixels. We’ve basically had the same screen res for two years now as all the competition blows past. Maybe that would have massively complicated BlackBerry 6 as everything about the UI would have needed retooling.

  6. All the bloggers want more more more from RIM ( for pagehits) and then every move they make forward- ” not good enough” . If RIM directly copied Android or Iphone, everyone would complain. Almost every Blogroll has already tanked BBos6 and the Torch. Concerning BB os6, why is nobody putting the Wifi itunes sync and support for FLAC audio on the media player in all the nay-sayers faces? Iphone nor Android CAN’T claim that.. If RIM completely overhauled the UI, I would imagine all the “pundits” will vocalize their complaints that some of the old features are missing. Want a walled garden with rainbows and dropped calls- go iphone. Want 300 flashlight apps and nothing that works free and horrible themes ( not to mention virtually no security on apps)- go Android. Want a familiar, safe, that can be both business and fun- go BlackBerry.

  7. I would have to agree with you on this yes RIM really has a ton of futures iphone and others are trying to imitate. Where RIM did screw up was on the hardware it needs more speed more memory. But I have to disagree with David on the trackpad no matter what the point is not everyone likes all touch screens and I have to say rim did a good job on putting the trackpad combo on it.

    • More memory and faster processor is always a plus but the BB OS doesn’t need as much as most the other smartphones. OS6 adds some nice features without trying to get to far from being a BB. Hardware could have had a few more features but I’m sure it gets the job done and does it well. Also the smaller screen the less the resolution matters, it’s not a monster touchscreen like some of these other phones are doing. It’s all about what you want and need to make a choice.

      • I disagree with…the bb os would benefit from more mem and faster processor. Some demo vids of the torch show lag and chopiness!!! Unacceptable on a flagship device running the new flagship OS! Plus more mem would have guaranteed this phone to be able to handle BB7 when it comes out down the road because we all know it will require more mem than the currently available 512 this new device has. Why not just add it from the get go. I am a die hard bb fan and user but have been let down with this new device and OS. I mean come on….these hardware specs are a mainstay on LOW END android devices….and this is a high end rim device. Laughable.

        • Ok watch the video on crackberry and watch how many apps alone they opened on one phone, then imagine everyone who takes a look at it does even half that, now tell me how can that not put a ton of pull on the hardware. BB can have lower specs and still multitasking better then other phones, so don’t judge it from the videos lets just wait and see. I was messing with a new android today and you know what…… it lagged around some and i wasn’t multitasking like i do on my BB and it had a 1ghz cpu. Sure the cpu could be faster and there could be more memory but you know what….. every phone could use both. Don’t compare BB specs to other phones because it don’t need the same hardware because the software is more efficient.

          • Of course it puts a ton of pull on the hardware, which could have been alleviated with a bit more ooomph, which is my point. What is going to happen when apps become more complex and grow in size, which they will giving the ability of this new OS. Then they will take even a bigger toll on the hardware. I am wondering also how much of a choke these specs will have on browsing speeds. Yes I know you are going fire back with ‘that depends on the data connection you have’ but guess what, processor plays a big deal in rendering pages, so a slower processor will in essence slow the browsing experience to a certain extent. What will happen when you have apps open in the background on top of it. Yes…..only time will tell and I hope you are right and I am wrong my friend. It will be very interesting to see how this will play out.

        • I know that the cpu effects the web browser lol, it effects everything on the phone but how much is enough? 800MHZ would have ben great then some would still say that not enough, people would have said needs 1GHZ, then soon as dual core become common people would say 1GHZ isn’t enough lol. I said in one of my post more is usually always better but we don’t even know that its necessary. Also BB are a lot like pc’s and you know what…… if i have a lot of apps open on my pc it will start lagging so my point is close some apps. Even 1Ghz will lag if enough pull on cpu. BB aren’t made for idiots like most phones. Other phones won’t have this issue because they cant multi task like a BB can but its up to the user to know when there pushing to much just like a pc.

        • I strongly agree with the point with regards to future OS upgrades. Yes we live in a tech society which drives us to replace our phones as soon as we can because there is always something better but if you are tied into an 18-24 mth contract like we do in the UK, that handset needs to have a lifespan to cover that contract. I’ve been banging on about this for a bit now and I know we’re being told OS6 will be available for the 9700 but that’s what they said about the 9000 – my carrier never released it and I removed it because the hardware simply wasn’t up to it. I bought my Bold 9700 in Sept when it came out here last year and was given the choice of a 18 or 24 mth contract. Either is fine as long as the handset is still being supported for the term of that contract but if I experience the same issue with loading the latest OS I might have to re-think getting a new Blackberry. I love my Blackberry and my 8800 was my first smartphone and I’d really rather have more of them however I am also a gadget geek and love to have the latest model or OS – sadly the former is too expensive a hobby but should I have to splash out on a “flagship” handset only to be supported (I know this isn’t entirely true as the 9000 is still getting updates even today but I mean as in the latest generation of OS) for half my contract term?
          Let’s have some more juice in the tank so that our handsets actually last our contract terms?

  8. Agreed about the trackpad… Worse thing about the iPhone/iPod is no fine control which the trackpad does and is better than android as it is a trackpad and not a trackball. So how come when RIM does something completeley better than the competition is it a minus?

  9. Plain and simple, too little, too late. The hardware is the Bold 9000/9700 rehashed with more RAM (not nearly enough) to run the rehashed OS and leave a little room for apps. Would jumping the RAM to 1GB or more have killed them? The OS is more of a hot mess than OS5…..a couple of nice little features, still in need of a total rewrite. Glad I move to an IP4 and got some $$ for the 9700 when it was worth something. RIM will continue to keep a strong business following as many swear by it, but they will likely keep losing ground to the others.

  10. How about synching your music over wifi? That’s not innovative? The 5MP camera is gorgeous. The OS and browser work really well…and responsive! Need more memory? For WHAT? Apps that you download and NEVER USE AGAIN? Front facing camera? WHO ARE YOU GOING TO VIDEO CHAT WITH? Name somebody. HDMI out? What for? Who cares? Those things will obviously be standard in a couple years or so, but for right now…RIM has a BlackBerry that performs great, looks sweet, feels great in your hand and in pocket, does a bunch of fun/cool things, doesn’t cost very much……..and doesn’t skimp on the things that differentiates them: strong reception, best battery life in the business, most efficient use of data, strongest security in the business, and a dummy-proof, seamless communication experience. I have no idea what everyone is complaining about.

  11. It constantly amazes me, how childish most tech reviewers are, with their insistence in playing pageantry games and kill-off fantasies. Each new model must annihilate all that has come before or fail. Each new feature must match or exceed every other feature of every other model on the market, or fail.

    I expect I am like most smartphone users in that I will use the device as a phone, and will use the smart bits for email, calendar, messaging, some browsing, etc. ISTM that the Torch will do these things morer and betterer than my Bold 9700. The screen, dismissed as “tiny”, seems, in fact, to be significantly larger than the one I am now productively using on the 9700. I know it is not the awkward and hard-edged slab of the recent Droid models. I know the Torch will not have the translpendant resolution of the Iphone 4. I wish it did, even as I recognize that no matter the brilliance and clarity, a smartphone ain’t even a tablet, which ain’t even a laptop, which ain’t either a desktop. Size does matter, but in a way that makes the differences between the biggest Droid (or impending Dell) and the “tiny” Torch mostly meaningless. They’re all phones, see. And wireless in the bargain so you can stuff them in your pocket and walk around with them. So there are and will always be limitations. There are only so many ways to render a webpage on a screen a third or a half the size of your hand. There are only so many ways that you can lay out a keyboard and populate a homescreen with icons.

    Part of what irritates the technoids, is the way RIM pretty much pitches their products at their users and not at the reviewers. Sure they glitz up some releases more than others but the absence of mutual fawning and stroking rarely fails to leave a mark in the reviews. The Torch looks like a nice fit — a device that will allow me to continue to multi-task, multi-access the still few “killer smartphone apps” (phone-email-txt-calendar-browse), but will also allow enough frivolity to satisfy my need for distraction and entertainment.

  12. This seems like a review that you would find on an Android or iPhone blog, not a BlackBerry blog. There were several points that really stood out.
    One is that the notification isn’t like Android’s. Who cares? If they had made it just like Android, I guess they would be saying they copied Android’s idea. Since it’s a tap and not slide motion, then it’s weak. If I wanted to swipe my notification bar, then I would have gotten an Android. Too much swiping makes my thumbs tired. I prefer to click.
    Another issue was the trackpad. That’s one reason why I stayed with BlackBerry and not Android. I couldn’t find one that had a trackpad as fluid and as fast as that on the BlackBerry. It was stated that a trackpad is not needed. Perhaps if you’re using the phone just for multimedia, browsing, and social networking. Ever tried to move around cells and edit text within a cell in a Excel spreadsheet when the zoom is 50% using just the touchscreen. Very frustrating. Of course, you can zoom in, but you won’t see as much as the spreadsheet as you would like. That’s where the business aspect of a BlackBerry comes into play.
    The writer also failed to mention about Mass Storage Mode. The iPhone doesn’t have it, but at least Android implemented that feature too.
    Last but not least, this is something that BlackBerry has over Android and the iPhone. Built in AutoText feature. It’s when you type A, and it converts to B. I’ve created nearly 1,500 custom AutoText words and phrases I use often. I can type faster on my BlackBerry using AutoText, than I can on my PC. The Android has Swype. It’s cool. Everyone loves it. Put them up against someone with a massive AutoText library and see who wins. BlackBerry hands down, every time.

    • >Built in AutoText feature. It’s when you type A, and it converts to B. I’ve created nearly 1,500 custom AutoText words and phrases I use often. I can type faster on my BlackBerry using AutoText, than I can on my PC. The Android has Swype. It’s cool. Everyone loves it. Put them up against someone with a massive AutoText library and see who wins. BlackBerry hands down, every time.<

      Very true. Blackberry's AutoText is so quietly awesome that often when I'm working on my desktop or laptop I find myself pining for it, because its easy enough to modify and add to that it just gets better and better the more you use it. Sometimes I will actually draft on my Blackberry and email to my desktop just to get the benefit of the AutoText. A fine example of the solid productivity value built in with Blackberry, without the flash.

  13. Nice way of explaining it. The review was a sucky one and RIM has to appease the corporate world as well with new devices

  14. I had a BlackBerry Bold 9000 – excellent phone. I was so looking forward to the 9800 ‘slider’ BB, as we used to call it. It was destined to be my next phone. But I broke my Bold! OMG!

    I accidently broke a few of the keys {K, Z and X}; it was in my pocket, while I was working. It was out of warranty and AT&T wouldn’t do anything for me (even though I ‘was’ a customer for 15 years). Besides that, I could not get AT&T coverage in several areas where I work and live. So I looked around. Lookie = findee.

    I found out that Sprint covers all the areas I needed, with 3G, even at my farm, where no other carrier has 3G. Just so you know, AT&T had ~44K EDGE at my farm, and Sprint has ~720K 3G at my farm. And we couldn’t get cable or DSL access at our farm, only Hughe$Net.

    So I went to the HTC EVO, a month ago. I am glad, now that I see how lame the Torch is. If I hadn’t broken my Bold, I would have been waiting and just opted to keep my Bold 9000, anyway. And then I hear that the 9000 Bold is not even getting OS6? What’s up with that?

    I think the Torch will be the last phone RIM will make. If they were really in it to win it, RIM would have given the Torch 400 x 800 (minimum) and a 1GHz CPU. All the Androids and the Jesus phone are eating RIM’s lunch.

    I do applaud RIM for standing up to two countries (Saudi Arabia and UAE), but I think they will probably buckle under the strain. Principle is one thing, but it won’t buy treasury shares, when RIM’s stock tanks. And it will, in a week or so. Sorry.

  15. Oh, yeah, and the big resolution/screen is nicer for another thing – old eyes. I set my EVO’s ginormous screen to show larger fonts. I don’t need my glasses to read email when the characters on my screen are bigger than the characters on the Bold or Torch’s keyboard!

    I work with a lot of older people (50+) and they bought the EVO for the readability of the screen with large fonts. The switched from BB’s and iPhones for the larger screen.

  16. Okay, this is my last point. I was considering buying a Kindle too, but my EVO does that just as nicely, with its ultra-clear resolution.

    Jagged fonts is just so…. Palm Pilot. I am not trying to be a smarta** – these are things that RIM should have considered.

    If RIM does make a BlackPad, they BETTER have an incredible screen on it, or they will be filing bankruptcy.

  17. Hate to say it but Michael Jones above makes some good points.

    Rim may have Jumped the Shark on this one.

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