Opinion: Why Blackberry Torch Can't Compete

Blackberry. It’s a name that will forever be associated with smartphones. It is an absolute staple in the world of consumer electronics. But the Blackberry operating system has been around for nearly 15 years. That makes it a veritable dinosaur in the current mobile market. The iPhone iOS platform and Android have taken the entire smartphone industry by storm: these are two sexy new players that have entered the arena with bold new technologies threatening to tear down everything in their path. Every other mobile operating system is suffering, and for no other company has it created as much of a threat as for Research In Motion (RIM), the technology firm responsible for Blackberry production.

That’s where Blackberry 6 and its flagship phone, the Torch, come into play. Revealed for the first time earlier this month (we got our hands on it here), RIM’s brand new operating system is the company’s long-awaited response to Android and iOS. Touting an overhauled interface, touch-screen controls, social networking integration, and an improved apps platform, RIM is hoping to blow its increasingly dominating competitors out of the water.

I’m sorry to say, however, that RIM’s dreams most certainly did not come true. The Blackberry Torch is a fine phone. It stands up to the standards of the 2010 state of the mobile industry, but there’s nothing here that should make anyone stand up and take notice. It, along with the new Blackberry 6 platform, will just continue to sit around in the same corner where the rest of the Blackberry line is positioned right now, and here are 9 reasons why.

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  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whrnck9vY2A

    Go to 1:55 of this video and you'll see that your complaint about no alternate menu for the touchscreen is invalid. In fact, most of your review is lacking in detail almost like you didn't actually use the product for more than three seconds. It seems like you just wanted to hate it.
  • hellwig
    I think RIMs mistake is even trying to compete with Android and the iPhone. RIM makes business phones, that's all they make, and that's where they should focus. I don't recall any big companies switching their executives over to iPhones (Apple doesn't count). The reason is because RIM does the security that simply isn't an option with the iPhone or Android. Yes, their market share is hurting, but they're losing customers they never meant to appeal to in the first place.

    Its like netbooks, when they were released, people bought them in droves, and other PC sales started to drop. People didn't need a full-sized computer just to browse the web, check email, or type up documents. Same with the iPad, it has started to cannibalize MacBook sales. When Intel released the Atom processor, it saw a drop in sales of other chips.

    When something that better meets their needs comes along, people tend to switch. If the only vehicle out there was a Ford F-150 for $30k, and you needed a vehicle to get you to work in the morning, you'd buy a F-150. Now if Hyundai releases a $9k Accent that will drive you 10 miles to work and back on 1/5th the gas, you'd probably trade in for that.

    Blackberries used to be the ONLY reliable smartphones out there (don't make me laugh with Win Mobile). Now that Android and the iPhone are out, many people are realizing they don't need encrypted communication or blackberry email. They never cared about the security, and they use Gmail or Yahoo Mail at home anyway. Unfortunately for RIM, it doesn't have a product to compete in the new market (who wants to drive a Ford focus?). That doesn't mean RIM will die, some people still need Blackberries, but it certainly will lose a lot of marketshare and will have to change its business strategy to survive (or be bought-out by HP, just like Palm, or by the government, just like GM).
  • reviewreader
    I agree with monkman, this review is full of fallacies and incorrect information. Three seconds into reading I had already disregarded it as unreliable. Do your research before you voice your opinion, inevitably if you post your thoughts on the internet someone more knowledgeable and better informed than you is going to read it. Every single "annoyance" in section 4 is either a misconception, your poor knowledge of how to use the device or simply false. And it seems that your criteria for reviewing this device was to compare it to an iPhone or Android phone and berate it for everything that is not like those two. As opposed to reviewing it by solely basing your opinion on no other device so as not to be biased. Disappointing read, and I own an iPhone so if anything I should agree with your opinion.
  • Monkman, the issue you brought up is different than the issue in the article. Yes, you can add apps to the "Favorites" section, but from there users cannot really organize them. There is no drag-and-drop functionality to laying out your apps like Android and iOS have done so well. That was my point. Although there is some flexibility in the way your apps can be displayed, it is very limited.

    - Mark
  • silverfang77
    The part about no period key is a pile of moot BS. In both the native browser and Bolt, when you are typing an URL, you hit the space bar and it inserts a period. When typing texts and emails, if you hit the space bar twice, it inserts a period.
  • arakrazy
    Good shout Silverfang

    And just to add to all of this...I traded in my heroic BB Curve (orig) for an HTC Desire a month ago.

    And I still miss my blackberry. Why?
    1) Great keyboard
    2) Awesome shortcuts like space for period, alt and tab, alt + enter to change language, the list goes on....
    3) Facebook is INTEGRATED. ie if an email comes in with a new notification, the FB app picks it up and if I open the notification, I can reply/view RIGHT IN THE APP as opposed to going to some cruddy web page that doesn't even realise I'm using a top-grade phone
    4) ALL my friends and their siblings have one.
    5) BBM

    Need I say more? In fact I'm kinda missing my BB Storm. Sold it to a friend, and the touch screen ness was almost good enough for me to go back to it over the Desire (which started to randomly reset itself for no reason about a dozen times in a row for 2 days straight)
  • silverfang77
    So in Android, you can't get a Facebook alert that will take you straight to the app like you can in BlackBerry?
  • damiano13mg
    RIM knows its audience, this is a step in the right direction!
  • proxy711
    damiano13mgRIM knows its audience, this is a step in the right direction!

    Now if only they weren't miles behind apple and android phones. they need more then a few steps in the right direction to be on the same level as the iphone and android phones.

    Don't get me wrong i like blackberries but they have fallen far from the number 1 phone.
  • TomsSound
    I haven't seen the torch in action.. but have they fixed the touchscreen? On the storm2 .. it is a horrible experience. Makes using the phone very annoying.. compared to a Droid.
  • AndrewMD
    I almost purchased a Torch last week but after listening to the issues that AT&T were having with the devices, i decided that RIM can no longer afford to have my business.

    RIM is at the point where Palm was a few years ago... Yes people liked Palm, but Palm didn't bring anything new to the mix to keep people..

    I don't like my updated iPhone 3GS since the update crippled compatibility with a lot of my equipment and apps (will not work in my 2010 car with iPod connection) but no only options now are iPad or iPhone 4. I really do not like any of the Android devices that are out.
  • BrentonMcGhee
    While I most certainly agree with you that this is not a phone to compete in the same arena as iOS or Android it still gives a lot of people exactly what they want. The raw usability of Blackberry with a few of the modern bells and whistles of much more powerful media phones.
    You also got a lot of your facts wrong;

    There is no way to delete all new notifications from the main menu, meaning if you have 500 new e-mails, you have to click on all of them to remove the mail notification icon
    In your messaging app all messages are separated by a banner that has the date on it. Anytime you click on this banner you have the option to mark all prior messages as either read or unread.

    The main options menu from the home screen provides the least important functions like changing the wallpaper, making users dig through other menu screens to access more important issues like network connections and Bluetooth settings
    From the home screen click on the big banner up top that has the date and time on it and a menu will slide down from the top that has all of your network connection settings for wifi, Bluetooth and cell radio.

    There is a “Favorites” tab in the phone’s app menu, but while I was testing the phone, for some reason all the apps that were showing up there just vanished
    You are spot on! Mine have never just vanished but I have them arranged in a specific fashion and everytime I restart the phone they go back to the order that I added them in.

    Common punctuation marks like a period or “@” sign don’t get their own key on the slide-out keyboard
    This is another one you are right about. However it probably only is an issue for people not used to it, I have been using a blackberry for a few years and I guess I don’t even notice it anymore, I type those common punctuation marks without even thinking about it, but I guess to people not used to it it could be an annoyance.

    The power-off screen that tells users to press any key to stop the device from shutting down only stays on for about 2 seconds, making it effectively impossible to prevent an accidental power-off
    How are you accidently powering off your phone. I have never accidently press and held the end button and then had to quickly pressed a key to abort a shutdown.

    There is no easy way to customize how apps appear on the main menu screen
    What do you mean, like arranging them, putting them in folders, renaming them, creating keyboard shortcuts for them. Because you can do all of those things.

    It is impossible to download apps in the background
    I download apps in the background all the time. Select download from the app store, then press the end key and you are back on the home screen to do as you wish while the app continues to download in the background.

    Now all that said, this still does not bode well for this being a new innovative device because all those above listed features were around on blackberry devices already out running OS4 and OS5.
  • spacemonkey211
    Thanks BrentonMcGhee for spending the time to write all that so that I wouldn't have to. It really shows that just because something isn't implemented the same, doesn't mean the functionality isn't there.

    This is the reason most companies get into a problem... Well it isn't done the same as XP so OSX or Linux or Vista or (insert OS here) sucks. Sometimes we have to learn something different to get the work done. Doesn't make is better or worse, just different. I would think that a reviewer would take the time to learn if something is possible before claiming that it isn't. That is just bad reporting.
  • spacemonkey211
    As for gaming... I guess you didn't really dig too deep into the app store to look for games. There are over 1k of them (I know not that much comparatively) in the app store. They can't all be bad. Have you ever played Sonic on your iPhone... is it any better?

    As for the "Trusted App" page... You can actually download an app from anywhere. Not just the app store. So for those apps that can be downloaded, would you just like them to install themselves and give itself all access to your phone data? To me the reason for that screen is to give you one last chance to edit permissions for the app before the first time it is launched. This way you can protect yourself from a Wallpaper App taking your user data before it is even installed.

    Once again... it is different and it pushes responsibility onto the end user instead of the manufacturer. Maybe that is why you dislike this feature. It makes you responsible.
  • Onus
    My take on your points:

    2. Yes, I have seen some of the ads. I thought they try to make the point that the Blackberry can be a part of today's active lifestyle. Added to the phone's already strong business presence, this represents an addition that will draw people's attention.
    3. The Torch is not a laptop, it is a PHONE. It does not need a large screen to perform the functions for which it was intended. Could it be easier to use? Perhaps. Business users will be much more concerned about other things.
    4. As you point out, any device will probably have annoyances. Some of these are addressable by software updates, others by familiarity. Only time will tell.
    5. You said it yourself: "To be fair, mobile gaming has historically been kind of an afterthought, especially through the sweepingly vast majority of Blackberry’s lifespan as a brand." Blackberry has always been a business tool, not a toy. I call BS on "If it can’t game, it can’t compete."
    6. No argument here, although software updates may offer improvements.
    7. Sounds like a mixed bag here, and in any case one where difficulties are not likely to be ongoing.
    8. While no big deal in the general smartphone market, these are significant for this business-centric device.
    9. Not really relevant, because this is a business tool, not a toy. For those whose business requirements dictate a Blackberry, they will be very happy to have the new, less "serious" features that let them have even some of the "fun" enjoyed by other smartphone users.
    10. "It’s Still A Blackberry." Yep! And the business users dependent on its corporate co-existence, manageability, and security (despite RIM caving to the demands of some Arab nations) will be happy to have it.
  • tokenz
    Is this the first Blackberry that you have used? Because you are mistaken on alot of these facts. No at key or . key. Learn to use a spacebar. In those fields the spacebar automagically put them in for you to save you time. The browser is radically changed. It is now a webkit browser, just like on android, and palm pre. I like the blackberry key. I like that I can bring up menus on a whim with one key. I dont have to press and hold. Its faster. They kept the layout the way they did because so many people are bb users. I ran bb for years. Just switched over to android and while I wont go back, I do miss some things. Blackberry Messenger, Suretype on portrait for the storm. alt tab (although holding home does the same thing its not as fast.) Typing in contact names or numbers searches for the contact. The durability of Blackberry. All these things make a blackberry. But when you start talking about reasons the blackberry will fail, and then spout off information that isnt even true, you come of as a total twit.
  • branflakes71
    Thank you to the many other users who've pointed out the incredible amount of mistakes in this article. Saved me a lot of typing. :D

    Now, if the author would step in and correct the misinformation, that would be better. There are enough incorrect articles running around about the Torch already.

    I respect the author's opinion, but to write an entire article with so much inaccurate data is bad journalism. He's got some good points on the hardware (I do wish my Torch had a 3.5" screen), but none on OS6.
  • Hi Mark,

    Thanks for responding to me, (original poster) but I wasn't referring to that issue listed under your annoyances in the article. I was referring to this quote in your conclusion:

    "The Torch still has the same old Blackberry button that brings up that ugly options menu on the left-hand side of the screen. This could have been changed. There could have been a new pop-up menu that takes better advantage of the touch screen."

    You say there's an "ugly options menu" and then say they should have added a new pop-up menu that was touch based. The video I linked to YouTube is the same as every other review video I've seen and every single one of them goes over the touch-screen based menu that you think doesn't exist. Your article is full of these kinds of mistakes - very simple ones that lead the reader to believe you haven't actually used the phone. Watching one interface video proves several of your statements throughout this article to be incorrect.

    Now if you have some qualms with what that menu can or can't do - like that you can't drag-drop icons then sure, that's a valid concern and something I'd say would be fair to be mentioned. See engadget's review for a fair critique of the device - they weren't fans of the device by any means.

    But let me just say this, and I think I speak for almost everyone reading your article whether iPhone, Android, or BlackBerry user: it's very clear to us that you glossed over the phone, used it without really diving into the details and getting an idea of how it fit into your lifestyle, and wrote it only with your preconceived notions of how it should be (and I'm not going to even guess what those preconceptions might be).

    That doesn't make for a good review. It doesn't even make for a good opinion piece. It's so blatantly obvious that it doesn't even make for a good ego booster for those who might feel the same way you do. Not even worth passing around for pageviews to say "hey, look at this troll!" because you're not trolling. You're just not trying.
  • branflakes71
    tomssoundI haven't seen the torch in action.. but have they fixed the touchscreen? On the storm2 .. it is a horrible experience. Makes using the phone very annoying.. compared to a Droid.

    I've got the Torch and love the touchscreen. I find it an excellent experience. I never handled the Storm 2, but remember not liking the Storm 1's screen that a client had. That was a slow touchscreen.

    I find the Torch's touch and response to be as good as the iPhone's I handle for client's (non of my client's have an Android, so I can't compare). There are minor optimizations it could use (and the leaked OS update seems to have fixed several), but I enjoy using the Torch. I'm liking it the more I use it.
  • bobwya
    I am not a SMART phone user - but do have an iPod Touch.
    I do understand from the CNET UK phone reviewer that the iPhone is a great multimedia device - but a rubbish phone (especially the 4G version). Practically speaking I want a phone that actually works as a (2G) voice transfer device first and foremost!! Hence my old beaten up SE K750i... I bet RIM make phones that actually work - or businesses wouldn't use them (data encryption or not)...
  • The biggest problem with the Torch is it came out too late.
    Really should not compare it with iPhone and Android, since BB is marketed toward corporate customer base and iphone and Android devices are more marketed toward consumer.

    I also found this piece of article is filled with mis-information.

    As a BB admin for a company with over 1500 devices, here is what I found annoying with the BB Torch.

    1. The lack of multi-lingual support on it, the unit I got only had English and Spanish. Where were the Asian language pack? and European language pack?
    2. Software updates that needs to go through carriers before it hits the public. AT&T has not updated BB software in a long time. 9700 Bold is still broken in which Japanese IME is not working. Work around is to use a handheld code from a HK carrier. (this holds true for all Blackberry)
    3. Who was the engineering genius to decide that if you press the lock key up top, it only lock the keypad and not password lock it? It used to password lock it and it worked well. Why did they have to change that?
    4. The exclusion of a holster and the poor screen unlock mechanism. It is super easy to have the touchscreen depressed while in your pocket and worst of all, the dial emergency number is just a press away.
    5. The touch screen is horrible for typing due to the way the letters are spaced too close to each other. I am not sure about anyone else but I had so much typos using the BB touchscreen that I gave up using it and opened the slider and use the physical keyboard.
  • One thing that i never understand from BB designer is why dont they make the "ENTER" button's bigger? i mean, they had empty space right through the "alt" button, why dont they just accomodate it?